The Nigerian-born artist’s interpretation of a Breonna Taylor sculpture is set to be auctioned at Sotheby’s this month, with proceeds going to the Breonna Taylor Foundation.
Brooklyn-based artist Láolú, known for his high-profile collaborations including with singer Beyoncé, is using his latest piece to amplify the name of Breonna Taylor and raise money for her family’s cause.
Láolú has interpreted a sculpture of Taylor, created by artist Chris Carnabuci, with his signature style of painting, known as the “Sacred Art of the Ori.” His style stems from his Nigerian heritage and uses iconography from Yoruba mythology, primarily featuring patterns and iconography representing deities called Orisha.
“I take these elements and patterns of these Yoruba Gods and put it on the skin, thereby I transport whoever I’m painting into the level of an Orisha,” Láolú, who is also a singer and songwriter, told BK Reader.
Among the symbols found on the Taylor piece is the “Oya” spiral, representing the continuation of life.
The sculpture created by Chris Carnabuci, who also created a statue of George Floyd once displayed in Flatbush and Union Square, will be auctioned for bidding in Sotheby’s Contemporary Art auction this month. Carnabuci’s statue of Floyd will also be part of this month’s auction.
Proceeds from the sales of these works will go to We Are Floyd and the Breonna Taylor Foundation, nonprofit organizations founded by the families of Floyd and Taylor, both of whom were killed by police last year.
“This project not only captures Breonna’s spirit, it is a monument standing for a call to justice for her, and the others who have suffered the same fate, and a beautiful way to honor her life,” Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, said in a statement.
Láolú Senbanjo was born in Nigeria and spent three years working as a human rights attorney before moving to New York City to pursue art full time.
“One of the reasons why I put down my wig and gown is because I felt like I had a louder voice with my art, and there were no constraints of the constitution of the law,” he says. He describes moving to the United States as a “culture shock” at first saying he had “never been called Black in my life until I moved to the United States.”
Here, he says he learned first-hand about the racial dynamics present in America, which now inspire his work. “The artwork kind of mirrors a lot of human rights violations that Black and Brown folk encounter on a daily basis in America,”
His first wave of notoriety as an artist came from a 2016 collaboration with Beyoncé, for which he painted her and her dancer’s faces for her “Lemonade” visual album. He says when he was asked to take part in the collaboration he thought it was a joke, and the reality of it still stuns him today.
In the years since, he’s gone on to collaborate with brands like Facebook, Nike, Starbucks and Apple, and with celebrities including Alicia Keys and Lupita Nyong’o.
Though Láolú’s work remains heavily influenced by his Nigerian heritage, he says living in Brooklyn keeps him inspired and has also given him a sense of community.
“I thought I was leaving Nigeria and coming to America, I thought I was going far away from home, only to come to America and meet Yoruba people as well.”
Next year, Láolú will serve as a member of the Arts, Culture and Parks committee in the office of the incoming New York Mayor, Eric Adams. “I’m in shock and ecstatic,” says Láolú of the position. “I’m happy to have a seat at the table.”
The sculpture of Taylor is open for online bidding in Sotheby’s Contemporary Art auction from Dec. 9 to Dec. 17. It is on public exhibition at Sotheby’s New York from Dec. 9 to Dec. 15.