The Mead Art Museum at Amherst College in Western Massachusetts has acquired a large-scale installation by Yinka Shonibare MBE. Titled The American Library Collection (Activists), the work by the English-Nigerian artist comprises 234 books wrapped in Dutch wax print fabric. The books display the names of first- and second-generation American activist-writers from across the political spectrum—including Mary McLeod Bethune, Grace Lee Boggs, Gordon Kiyoshi Hirabayashi, and Sonia Sotomayor, among others.
David Little, the director and chief curator of the Mead Art Museum, said in a statement, “Yinka Shonibare’s library highlights the vital, complex, and important contributions of American immigrants, and the descendants of immigrants, who brought forward ideas that represent a spectrum of social and political thought.”
He added, “At a time when questions of academic and intellectual freedom can be so contentious on college campuses and in the mass media, bringing this work to Amherst College supports our ongoing efforts to embrace open debate and discussion and seek ways in which art and artists can support these conversations.”
In conjunction with the public opening for the installation on Ocotber 30, the museum will host a debate among Amherst College faculty members from American studies, economics, political science, and other departments that will focus on global migrations of people, commodities, and ideas. According to a release, the debate “will serve as a model for how students can facilitate constructive discussion of sensitive topics.”