The Whole World Smiles with You

29 May - 26 June 2024

Opera Gallery London is pleased to present ‘The Whole World Smiles with You’, a group exhibition running on dates 29th May – 26th June. Curated by Alayo Akinkugbe, the exhibition features works by Aboudia, Derrick Adams, Noel Anderson, Amoako Boafo, Gerald Chukwuma, Bouvy Enkobo, Jazz Grant, John Madu, Kimathi Mafafo, Simphiwe Ndzube, Chris Ofili, Anya Paintsil, Deborah Roberts; Collin Sekajugo, Thelonious Stokes, Adjei Tawiah, Awodiya Toluwani and Kehinde Wiley.


‘The Whole World Smiles with You’ interrogates various modes of figuration by contemporary Black artists. The exhibited artists challenge the Western canon by overtly reconfiguring renowned paintings to include Black protagonists or, more covertly, portraying figures in poses reminiscent of pre-twentieth-century European portraiture. Certain works also demonstrate a tendency among Black artists to distort, simplify, or caricature the image of a Black person – either to draw attention to negative stereotypes or to imagine Black bodies extending beyond imposed limitations. 


In the wake of the Black Lives Matter Movement in 2020, the exhibition places importance on voices that have historically been disregarded. Although figuration has been constant throughout art history, figurative work by Black artists only recently rose to prominence. Such work contributes to the understanding of racialised experiences and the diverse self-perceptions of Black people. 


This exhibition contributes to the ongoing conversations around the position of figuration by Black artists. Curator, Alayo Akinkugbe, states that “it is crucial to acknowledge that this exhibition doesn’t exist in isolation but is, in part, a response to events leading up to and since 2020 which have opened up more space for dialogues around Blackness.” Opera Gallery invites you to take part in this critical conversation with ‘The Whole World Smiles with You.’

Detail of Adjei Tawiah, 2023, I'm Still Here