- Yinka Shonibare MBE
Yinka Shonibare MBE’s Trumpet Boy comprises a fibreglass mannequin of a child dressed in a Victorian-style suit playing a cornet.
The head of the boy is represented by a celestial globe. This evocative figure raises questions of identity and colonialism, while also having particular resonance in the context of the Foundling Museum. Shonibare is a British-Nigerian artist who was born in London and grew up in Nigeria. He later trained at the Byam Shaw School of Art and Goldsmiths College in London. His work explores issues of colonialism and cultural identity, most recognisably through his use of brightly coloured ‘African’ fabrics. These fabrics are, in fact, contemporary prints manufactured in Holland for the African and Indonesian markets. The Foundling Museum tells the story of the Foundling Hospital, the first children’s charity in Britain. The hospital was founded in 1739 to care for abandoned babies and quickly gained the support of artists, craftsmen and musicians of the day. Among the most prominent early figures to support the hospital were William Hogarth and George Frideric Handel. Hogarth’s work was displayed alongside donations by other artists, leading to the hospital’s claim to have opened the first public gallery in the UK. Shonibare’s Trumpet Boy was shown as part of the Foundling Museum’s 2016 exhibition ‘Found’. Curated by Cornelia Parker, the show featured work by contemporary artists shown in dialogue with the museum’s historic collection. The figure of the lone child in period-style dress has particular relevance to the history of the hospital, as does the inclusion of a musical instrument. Music played a key role in the hospital’s history; a boys’ band was established there in 1847 and continued until the hospital closed in 1954. Many of the boys who played instruments at the hospital went on to join military bands around the world.