Diary of a Victorian Dandy

Shonibare's ambitious photographic suite Diary of a Victorian Dandy has frequently been considered in relation to the satirical art of the 18th-century painter and caricaturist William Hogarth. Shonibare's photographs resonate with Hogarth's A Rake's Progress (1735), which chronicled the dissipation and ruin of its protagonist, but they avoid its moralizing tenor. Instead, Shonibare's work celebrates excess and decadence, while inverting the stereotype of otherness through the figure of the black dandy (played by Shonibare himself) with his fawning white servants and acolytes.

Themes of leisure, frivolity, self-invention and social mobility are played out through the figure of the dandy, whose circulation in upper-class English social circles was often linked to his style and wit. Shonibare has described his attraction to the dandy as an "outsider [who] upsets the social order of things." As their titles indicate, Shonibare's photographs depict a day in the life of his fictional dandy--from his late morning rise, to his afternoon business and social activities, to a decadent sexual adventure at 3 a.m.