‘Kaleidoscope’ is a multiple by Yinka Shonibare MBE that playfully explores gender stereotypes and power relations: a kaleidoscope in the shape of a phallus, with the body beautifully decorated in the Dutch wax batik patterns the artist is known for, and the head made of highly polished brass.

Through the opening at the head of the phallus a distorted image of Sandro Botticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus’ can be seen. Botticelli’s original image depicted the birth of Venus, the goddess of the sea, standing on a shell, the female ideal as the object of mythology and desire. Subverting this familiar image, Shonibare has replaced the female nude by a photograph of a well-endowed naked male. ‘Kaleidoscope’ performs an act of reverse objectification, as the erect phallus and the male nude take the place historically occupied by the female body and therefore take it beyond the familiar realm of the male gaze.

This object can also be seen as a subversive take on 19th century Victoriana, and specifically the ‘peep show’ images of women viewed through devices such as a kaleidoscope.

As with Shonibare’s celebrated work on the Fourth Plinth, ‘Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle’, ‘Kaleidoscope’ reclaims an object from a familiar British tradition and subverts it through the bold use of batik patterns and by transforming the shape into that of a phallus.



Additional information


Cast brass, digitally printed cotton, lacquer, mirror, lens, glass, perspex, oil



Original / Edition

Edition of 45


27 x 8 x 8 cm


Yinka Shonibare MBE was born in London and moved to Lagos, Nigeria at the age of three. He returned to London to study Fine Art, graduating as part of the ‘Young British Artists’ generation. Over the past decade, Shonibare has become well known for his exploration of colonialism and post-colonialism within the contemporary context of globalisation. His expertly-crafted work explores these issues, alongside those of race, class and cultural identity, through painting, sculpture, photography, film and performance

A Turner prize nominee in 2004, he was awarded an MBE in the same year, adopting the title into his working name. In 2013 he was elected RA by the Royal Academy of Arts.

Shonibare has exhibited internationally at leading museums worldwide. Recent solo shows have included ‘POP!’ at Stephen Friedman Gallery, London (2013), ‘FABRICA-ATION’ at Yorkshire Sculpture Park (2013), and ‘MAGIC LADDERS’, The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia (2014).


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