The iconic sugar-pink Gallery dining room at Sketch is no more, with the London restaurant having recently revealed its all-new yellow-toned art installation. Created by artist Yinka Shonibare CBE RA and project architect India Mahdavi, the design marks the start of a new era for the restaurant as it enters its 20th year.
In keeping with Sketch’s longstanding tradition of working with celebrated artists to adorn the walls of the Gallery – with previous exhibitors including David Shrigley and Martin Reed – Shonibare was enlisted to conceive the vision for the Gallery dining room’s new design.
Presented alongside Mahdavi’s striking color work, 13 site-specific Shonibare pieces are featured in the new-look restaurant, together forming the Modern Magic collection. Made up of four hand-painted wooden masks and nine framed quilts that replicate African masks found in Pablo Picasso’s collection, the installation is a celebration of African culture and its legacy.
Calling on his Nigerian heritage, Shonibare sought to highlight the influence of African art and tradition on Europe. The masks in his latest installation are recreations of those used in rituals and ceremonies across the continent to conjure new powers and realms and eventually went on to inspire the work of several prominent Modernist artists.
To complement Shonibare’s installation, Mahdavi, who was also responsible for creating Sketch’s world-famous pink iteration, has finished the dining room walls in a striking metallic copper hue, while the banquette seating and cushioned chairs have been reimagined in sunshine-yellow fabrics.
“The Gallery at Sketch has been linked to the color pink for such a long time that it was very challenging for me to overcome this success. Yinka’s artwork was a real inspiration and enticed me to work differently in this new version of the Gallery,” says Mahdavi.
Completing the dining room will be Senegalese fabrics by textile designer Aissa Dione and one-off handmade wall lights by Inès Bressand, who works with weavers in Ghana to complete her pieces.
“I was very afraid to change the pink room as David Shrigley is a part of Sketch,” adds Sketch proprietor, Mourad Mazouz. “Then I was introduced to Yinka Shonibare, and I thought, my God, the master himself wants to work with Sketch. It was like I was dreaming. Yinka’s work is so powerful, intelligent and mythical, and I am so pleased to share it with Sketch’s visitors from all over the world.”
Although the pink dining room has been replaced, the iconic space has been immortalized in the form of a miniature replica, created by Mahdavi, which will be on display in the restaurant. And sweet treat lovers rejoice: while the design has changed, for the most part, the menu has not with Sketch still continuing to serve its much-loved afternoon tea seven days a week.
To mark the advent of a new aesthetic in the restaurant, chef Pierre Gagnaire has added a new dish to his menu in homage to the artist. The new Yinka Rice is a dish of West African Jollof rice, scented with ginger and cumin and served with roasted plantain.
The cocktail menu has also seen a new addition, with bar director Luca Fugazza crafting the Yinka Zobo in honor of Shonibare, which mixes rum, pineapple, lime, honey and ginger with the tart, floral flavor of hibiscus, which Shonibare recalls from his childhood.