The American Library Collection (Chefs)


(b. 1962, United Kingdom)

The American Library Collection (Chefs), 2021

Approximately 225 hardback books, Dutch wax printed cotton textile, gold foiled names, bookcase, bespoke card catalogue box

Planet Word, on loan from the collection of Ann and Tom Friedman

British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare is known for his use of batik prints: colorful wax-printed fabrics popular in West African countries, but which have their origins in Indonesia and were mass produced by Dutch colonizers. The multicultural nature of the fabric serves as a metaphor in his artwork for the complex relationships within our global society.

In his The American Library Collection series, the artist extends this metaphor by wrapping the fabric around books to represent how immigration has shaped the American cultural landscape. In this piece, Chefs, most of the books on the shelves are about foods; their spines display the names of chefs in gold lettering. Many of the chefs are first- or second-generation immigrants, but Shonibare has also included people who have spoken out against immigration and policies that promote diversity and equality. In doing so, he asks us to consider the many and varied contributions of immigrant chefs, and the continued debates around the issue of immigration.

For more information about Yinka Shonibare, please visit