The bold colours and striking patterns of Yinka Ilori’s furniture, homeware, textiles and billboard graphics are to be celebrated for the first time in a free museum exhibition.
Ilori, who grew up in a Nigerian household in north London, has drawn inspiration from west African textiles in his artwork and designs.
The exhibition, Yinka Ilori: Parables for Happiness, at the Design Museum in London will showcase Ilori’s work beside examples of his cultural influences. Among more than 100 objects on show will be furniture, textiles, books and personal possessions.
“Seen together, they offer an unprecedented glimpse into Ilori’s use of the power of design to absorb cultural influences and express London’s rich mix of identities,” the museum said.
The display will include some of Ilori’s architectural projects, such as the Laundrette of Dreams, which was built from more than 200,000 Lego bricks and designed through workshops with primary schools in east London.
Ilori’s fascination with chairs will also be highlighted. Since he began refurbishing unwanted chairs while studying furniture design at London Metropolitan University, he has designed more than 80.
Each one tells a story but he wants people to interpret each piece as they wish. “Some of my chairs are like sculptures, and others are designed to be functional. But I don’t want to put a label on them,” he told the Guardian in 2017.
“Storytelling is really powerful; growing up, I always wanted to know more about Nigerian culture. Now I aim to retell my parents’ stories, and stories about my own experiences, in a colourful, thought-provoking way.”
The exhibition will use models, photographs and drawings to examine some of Ilori’s most recognisable projects, including his transformation of 18 pedestrian crossings in central London.
Ilori said he had drawn inspiration from the Design Museum since he was a student. “This exhibition charts my inspirations and creative journey as I transitioned from furniture design to community-driven public installations.
“I am truly humbled and honoured to have my work exhibited at such an early stage in my career, and hope the display provides inspiration for the next generation who might feel they don’t fit into the status quo.”
Priya Khanchandani, the head of curatorial at the museum, said: “This display is a testament to how cultural fusions, frissons and juxtapositions can be rich fuel for creativity and for generating more inclusive architectures in the city.”
Yinka Ilori: Parables for Happiness opens at the Design Museum on 15 September 2022. Entry is free.