21 January 2019

A New Time For Dreams

As hastily made resolutions fade to distant memory, 2019 stretches languidly before us, rudderless with the possibility of the unknown. It’s the hazy mood which menswear designer Grace Wales Bonner taps into with Grace Wales Bonner: A Time for New Dreams, a new exhibition at the Serpentine’s Sackler gallery that traverses themes of spirituality, mysticism, rhythm and temporality. Building on her process to date, the exhibition is unique in that Wales Bonner has worked directly with the artists and writers that have inspired her rather than using their work as source material.

For years, the half-Jamaican, London-based fashion designer Grace Wales Bonner has been operating her eponymous label like a research institute devoted to deterritorialized cultures, with a constant output of projects like her lookbook drawn from James Baldwin’s bellbottoms and the Siddi community. 

Back in 2014, Grace Wales Bonner’s graduate collection Afrique won the L’Oréal Professionnel Talent Award. The following year, the designer launched her eponymous menswear label Wales Bonner with Ebonics, a debut collection for which she was awarded Emerging Menswear Designer at the British Fashion Awards. Next came the LVMH Young Designer Prize, and then, in October last year, Wales Bonner was awarded the 2018 Emerging Design Medal at the London Design Festival, an award which has previously honoured design luminaries including starchitects Thomas Heatherwick and the late, great Zaha Hadid. 

Apparently not content with commanding the notoriously hard-to-earn respect of fashion and design’s leading decision makers, Grace Wales Bonner’s latest project sees the designer laying claim to the art world. Her newest venture, a multi-sensory installation at London’s Serpentine Gallery turns the white cube gallery setting into a portal for mysticism and the occult.

Along with Paul Gilroy’s The Black Atlantic, one of her major influences in this investigation has been writer Ishmael Reed, the prolific author of satirical novels such as Mumbo Jumbo — whose title was borrowed for the name of Wales Bonner’s next collection, which will be debuted with the culmination of the exhibit — and more recently the author of an incisive takedown of Hamilton called “The Haunting of Lin-Manuel Miranda.”

The exhibition  follows experimental interdisciplinary Park Nights events at the gallery which have so far celebrated emerging artists including Jala Wahid and brands such as Telfar. But Wales Bonner’s exhibition is the first at the Serpentine’s Sackler gallery curated by a fashion designer, marking the beginning of a new series of short projects which will bring a broad range of artistic practises into the gallery. Just how broad, only time will tell, although Grace Wales Bonner: A Time for New Dreams is set to leave a strong imprint.

The exhibition runs from January 19th – February 16th 2019 at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery.