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William Morris Gallery to collaborate with Yinka Shonibare MBE on first major commission

The William Morris Gallery has announced its first major commission – a Morris-inspired photographic exhibition by Turner Prize nominee Yinka Shonibare MBE.

The William Morris Family Album will see the British Nigerian artist work with Waltham Forest residents to recreate photographs of Morris’s family from the Gallery’s collection. Some of the sitters will wear Victorian costume, refashioned from African-inspired batik fabric created especially for the project. The work will encourage viewers to reflect on Morris’s political views by connecting his socialist ideals with the history of the British Empire.

Morris is a natural subject for Shonibare, whose interest in the Victorian Age, imperialism and the global textile trade has informed much of his work. Inspired by his visits to the Gallery, Shonibare worked with curators to explore Morris’s ideas and the wider social context of Waltham Forest.

The free exhibition at the gallery will be accompanied by an extensive education and events programme.

Council leader Chris Robbins said: “Waltham Forest Council is thrilled to be collaborating with Yinka Shonibare MBE on the William Morris Gallery’s first major commission. 

“The project represents another dimension for the Gallery, giving residents the opportunity to work with an internationally renowned contemporary artist. The resulting show will explore themes that are highly relevant to our local audience, while giving a new perspective on Morris’s political beliefs.”

Shonibare said: “In the spirit of William Morris's ideal of an egalitarian society, a diverse group of local people have been invited to re stage three photographs from the William Morris Family album. The photographs are a celebration of costumes, textiles and diversity in the Morris world from a 21st century perspective.”

The William Morris Family Album is supported by Arts Council England, Cass Arts and The Mall Walthamstow.

Notes to editors

Yinka Shonibare: The William Morris Family Album

Exhibition runs from 7 February – 7 June 2015

Press preview on Friday 6 February from 10am to 4pm

William Morris Gallery

Forest Road, London E17 4PP

Wednesday to Sunday, 10am - 5pm; admission free

For further information please contact Ian Mason at or on 020 8496 4726.

Yinka Shonibare MBE

Yinka Shonibare MBE RA was born in London and moved to Lagos, Nigeria at the age of three. He returned to London to study Fine Art first at Byam Shaw College of Art and then at Goldsmiths College, where he received his MFA, graduating as part of the “Young British Artists” generation. He currently lives and works in the East End of London.

Shonibare was a Turner prize nominee in 2004 and has been awarded the decoration of Member of the “Most Excellent Order of the British Empire”. He has added this title to his professional name. In 2013 he was elected Royal Academician by the Royal Academy of Arts. He has exhibited at the Venice Biennale and internationally at leading museums worldwide. In 2010, 'Nelson's Ship in a Bottle' became his first public art commission on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square. Last year’s retrospective at the award-winning Yorkshire Sculpture Park was his most extensive to date.

About the William Morris Gallery

The William Morris Gallery is the only public Gallery devoted to William Morris: designer, craftsman and radical socialist. Housed in the grade II* listed building that was Morris's family home from 1848 to 1856, the Gallery reopened in August 2012 following a major redevelopment that attracted widespread public and press acclaim.

Since its relaunch the Gallery has developed an ambitious contemporary programme, hosting Morris-inspired exhibitions by artists including Grayson Perry and Jeremy Deller.

The Gallery, which is owned and run by Waltham Forest Council, is the Art Fund’s Museum of the Year 2013 and has been nominated for the European Museum of the Year Award 2014.

The Gallery is open Wednesday to Sunday, 10am - 5pm; admission is free. For more information visit

If you would like more information about any of these press releases or have a different media enquiry please contact us at or on 020 8496 4521 / 4802.

For out of hours please email or call 07966 915 157.