London's Barbican Centre Gets a Vibrant Makeover

Thanks to Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama.

Art
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Ibrahim Mahama is a Ghanaian artist best known for creating intricate and sometimes massive textile installations that probe into how capital, labor and globalization are woven into the history of materials. In the past, he’s covered Milan’s Fondazione Nicola Trussardi with an exterior made entirely of jute sacks, a common vessel Mahama employs within his practice to comment on commerce and the transportation of global goods. His latest canvas? The brutalist concrete facade of London’s Barbican Centre.

Entitled Purple Hibiscus (2023-2024), Mahama worked with a group of 1,000 local weavers in Tamale, Ghana (where the artist is from) over a seven month period to reimagine the Barbican’s Brutalist exterior. The towering pink installation coincides with the Barbican’s ongoing exhibition, Unravel: The Power & Politics of Textiles in Art, a group show comprising works by 50 international artists who use textiles as a platform to explore narratives of violence and imperialism, as well as resilience, hope and love.

Overlaid across the Barbican’s pinkish new skin are traditional “batakaris” garments that Mahama collected through a “barter” system, the Barbican previously said in a statement. “Worn, degraded and bearing traces of years of use, these smocks are testaments to the endurance of traditional belief systems, and the continued relevance of intergenerational knowledge,” adding that these garments are a testament to “Mahama’s deep interest in the life cycles of textiles and what can be learnt from the historical memories embedded within them.”

Purple Hibiscus will cover the Barbican Centre until August 18, 2024, while Unravel: The Power & Politics of Textiles in Art will be on view until May 26, 2024.

Barbican Centre
Silk St, Barbican,
London EC2Y 8DS

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