Yinka Shonibare was born in London in 1962. His family moved to Lagos, Nigeria when he was three years old. At 17, he returned to Britain to do his A-levels. Shonibare contracted transverse myelitis, an inflammation across the spinal cord, at the age of eighteen, which resulted in a long term physical disability where one side of his body is paralysed. He then studied Fine Art first at Byam Shaw School of Art (now Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design) and then at Goldsmiths, University of London, where he received his MFA, graduating as part of the Young British Artists generation. Following his studies, Shonibare worked as an arts development officer for Shape Arts, an organisation which makes arts accessible to disabled people.In 1990 his son Kayode Shonibare-Lewis was born, now an indie game developer and 3D artist.
He has exhibited at the Venice Biennial and at leading museums worldwide. He was notably commissioned by Okwui Enwezor at documenta XI in 2002 to create his most recognised work Gallantry and Criminal Conversation that launched him on an international stage.
In 2004, he was shortlisted for the Turner Prize for his Double Dutch exhibition at the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam and for his solo show at the Stephen Friedman Gallery, London. Of the four nominees, he seemed to be the most popular with the general public that year. A BBC website poll, resulted in 64% of voters stating that his work was their favourite.
Shonibare became an Honorary Fellow of Goldsmiths’ College in 2003, was awarded an MBE in 2004,and received an Honorary Doctorate (Fine Artist) of the Royal College of Art in 2010. He was elected Royal Academician by the Royal Academy of Arts in 2013.He joined Iniva’s Board of trustees in 2009.
He has exhibited at the Venice Biennial and internationally at leading museums worldwide. In September 2008, his major mid-career survey commenced at the MCA Sydney and toured to the Brooklyn Museum, New York in June 2009 and the Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC in October 2009 . In 2010, ‘Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle’ became his first public art commission on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square.