Rotimi Fani-Kayode

8 February - 15 April

The Palitz Gallery

New York City, USA

Past exhibition

A solo retrospective of the work of this seminal and highly influential figure in 1980s black British and African contemporary art. Although his career was cut short by his untimely death at the age of 34, Rotimi Fani-Kayode nonetheless remains an important influence in contemporary photography. 

Curated by Mark Sealy and Renée Mussai of Autograph ABP, Light Work staff was given access to the negatives from which to create the reprints on display in Rotimi Fani-Kayode (1955-1989) - all are ink on etching rag. The exhibition features a selection of his most important photographic works produced between 1985-1989, including large-scale color works and arresting black and white images.

The artist's portraits explore complex personal and politically engaged notions of desire, spirituality and cultural dislocation. They depict the black male body as a focal point both to interpret and probe the boundaries of spiritual and erotic fantasy, and of cultural and sexual difference. Ancestral rituals and a provocative, multi-layered symbolism fuse with archetypal motifs from European and African cultures and subcultures, inspired by what Yoruba priests call “the technique of ecstasy". Hence Fani-Kayode uses the medium of photography not only to question issues of sexuality and homoerotic desire, but also to address themes of diaspora and belonging, and the tensions between his homosexuality and his Yoruba upbringing. This exhibition runs during a period where punitive legislation in Nigeria has been enacted, just as in other countries in Africa, in recent years outlawing same-sex marriages and membership in gay rights organizations.

In partnership with

Light Work

Light Work was founded as an artist-run, non-profit organization in 1973. Its mission is to provide direct support through residencies, publications, exhibitions, a community-access digital lab facility, and other related projects to emerging and under-represented artists working in the media of photography and digital imaging.

The Palitz Gallery

Palitz Gallery, located in Syracuse University's Lubin House, is the Syracuse University Art Galleries' visual arts venue in midtown Manhattan. Opened in 2003, the gallery is made possible through the support of SU alumna Louise Palitz and her late husband Bernard. Throughout the year, the gallery presents a variety of notable exhibitions from the University’s collection and private and museum collections.

About Rotimi Fani-Kayode

Fani-Kayode was born in Lagos, Nigeria, to a prominent Yoruba family which left Africa as refugees in 1966 and moved the United Kingdom. He later studied at Georgetown University and the Pratt Institute before settling permanently in London in 1983, where he lived and worked until his early death from a short and unexpected illness on Dec. 21, 1989. In 2003, his work featured in the African Pavilion at the 50th Venice Biennale and in 2011 in ARS 11 at Kiasma-Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki, Finland. Fani-Kayode’s work is represented in the collections of numerous institutions and private collectors, including the Victoria & Albert Museum, Walther Family Foundation, Harvard University’s Hutchins Center, Kiasma-Museum of Contemporary Art and the collection of Yinka Shonibare MBE, among others.

Fani-Kayode was a co-founder and first chair of Autograph ABP. 

Additional Info

The Palitz Gallery
Syracuse University Lubin House
11 East 61st Street, NYC

Monday - Friday 10am - 6pm
Saturday 11am - 4pm
Closed Sundays

Tel: +1 315.443.4097
Email: suart@syr.edu