Rake's life goes down the Tube

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The Independent Online
THE London Underground has been selected as an exhibition space by a young British artist to display his modern version of a rake's progress, writes Sophie Goodchild.

Yinka Shonibare has chosen 50 poster sites on the Underground for the first showing of Diary of a Victorian Dandy: 14.00 Hours, 1998.

It is one in a series of six pictures which re-invent the legacy of the archetypal English fop as a dandified black British man

The posed photographs feature Mr Shonibare as the poseur in scenes with his valet, gambling in the billiards room and attending louche parties. They were shot in a stately home with actors and on one level reflect the joy of dressing up and the British obsession with costume drama.

Mr Shonibare says they also show how those outside the British class system, including black people, aspire to colonial attitudes and use designer dress in an attempt to belong to the elite.

"Dandies were always dressing up in an attempt to belong whereas the upper classes would dress down. This often made them figures of fun," he explained. "Disraeli, for example, was laughed down for his dress the first time he made a speech. Chris Eubank is known as a fop despite his working class background. Class and keeping up appearances plays a large part in my work."

Mr Shonibare's work has already attracted the attention of art collector Charles Saatchi, and the Institute of International Visual Arts, which commissioned the paintings, is negotiating with galleries to exhibit the remaining pictures.

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