Nigerian born artist Toyin Ojih Odutola’s installation commissioned by Barbican

Supported by The Arts Council England and Jack Shainman Gallery New York,  the Barbican Art Gallery will present A Countervailing Theory, a site-specific installation for The Curve. It is the  first-ever UK commission by Nigerian-American artist Toyin Ojih Odutola.

Ojih Odutola’s epic cycle of groundbreaking new work unfurls across the 90-metre long gallery.  An immersive soundscape by renowned conceptual sound artist Peter Adjaye fills the space in response to Ojih Odutola’s unusual work. The exhibition will be accompanied by a publication featuring a new text by acclaimed writer Zadie Smith and an interview with the artist.

The installation is a series of 40 drawings, each work acting as an individual episode within an overarching narrative. Ojih Odutola encourages the viewer to piece together the fragments of the stories she presents.

Set within a surreal landscape inspired by the rock formations of Plateau State in central Nigeria, the works depict the tale of a fictional prehistoric civilisation, dominated by female rulers and served by male labourers. Drawing on an eclectic range of sources, from ancient history to popular culture, Ojih Odutola investigates the power dynamics at play within this community.

Jane Alison, Head of Visual Arts, Barbican said: “I am delighted that we have commissioned Toyin Ojih Odutola to make a new body of work for our free programme of Curve installations. We were almost ready to open just as lockdown happened and now, thankfully, we are finally able to introduce this epic work to audiences in the Centre, as well as creating a video tour of the exhibition for those unable to attend in person. Ojih Odutola’s engagement with the space as a canvas for her expansive narratives will undoubtedly be a revelation for many.”

In line with government guidelines, new safety measures are in place for this exhibition including operating at reduced capacity. Timed entry slots ensure a safe flow of visitors through the space and tickets need to be booked online at in advance. More information is available here.

Exhibition dates:

11 August 2020 – 24 January 2021. 

Ojih Odutola currently lives and works in New York .
Main photo: earlier work by the artist. Representatives of State (2016-2017) Courtesy Toyin Ojih Odutola and Jack Shainman Gallery New York