Feast your eyes on the elegant grandeur of the Real Gabinete Português de Leitura (known in English as the Royal Portuguese Reading Room or the Royal Cabinet), a 19th-century library in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Constructed from 1880 to 1887 under the direction of architect Rafael da Silva e Castro, the magnificent library has the distinction of holding the largest and most valuable collection of Portuguese works outside of Portugal, with over 350,000 volumes filling its countless bookshelves.
As part of this year’s HOUSE, Brighton’s festival of visual art and domestic space Yinka Shonibare MBE has created The British Library, a 10,000 book installation exploring the impact of immigration on British culture.
The work, co-commissioned by HOUSE and the Brighton Festival, makes its home in the confines of the Old Reference Library at the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery.
The books are all bound in Shonibare’s trademark African Dutch wax batik fabric and are housed in the library’s original wood bookcases.
responds to both sides of the immigration debate, both for and against. Printed in gold foil on the spines of 3,500 of the books are the names of notable British immigrants who throughout history have made significant contributions to British culture and society, including those opposed to immigration.
Yinka Shonibare, a British-Nigerian artist living in London, said, “Whilst the installation is a celebration of the ongoing contributions made to British society by people who have arrived here from other parts of the world or whose ancestors came to Britain as immigrants, it does not exclude the points of view of those who object to it. The British Library is inspired by the current debates about immigration and the public response to the new presence of Romanians in Britain”.