Turner Prize 2017: Africa’s Lubaina Himid Makes History
Lubaina Himid has become the oldest and the first Black woman to pick up the prestigious art award. The 63-year-old Zanzibar-born, Preston-based artist won the £25,000 prize for her work addressing racial politics and the legacy of slavery.
Lubaina Himid studied theatre design at Wimbledon College of Art and holds an M.A in cultural history from the Royal College of Art. She is professor of contemporary art at the University of Central Lancashire.
Her section of the Turner Prize exhibition in Hull contains work from the 1980s to today, including wooden figures, pottery and newspapers that she has painted on. Himid repeatedly questions the historical role of portraiture, as exemplified in the centrepiece, 1987’s A Fashionable Marriage, inspired by William Hogarth’s Marriage a la Mode (The Countess’s Morning Levee) 1743. Incorporating painting, drawing and collage on cut-outs, the installation features a brightly coloured stage set with a cast of characters taken from Hogarth’s morality tale. It relates its historical inspiration to our current climate by including contemporary newspaper headlines and images of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Her satirical approach takes aim at the politics of the time, as well as its legacy today. In works such as these, the artist appropriates and interrogates European painters and combines aspects of her African heritage to question the role of visual power.
Himid’s recent solo exhibitions include Navigation Charts, Spike Island, Bristol, UK and Invisible Strategies, Modern Art Oxford, Oxford, UK (2017). Recent group exhibitions include; The Place is Here, Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham, UK (2017); The 1980s Today’s Beginnings?, Van Abbe Museum, Eindhoven, Netherlands (2016); Keywords, Tate Liverpool, UK (2014); and Burning Down the House, Gwangju Biennale, South Korea (2014).
From 1986 – 1990, she was director of the Elbow Room where she curated several exhibitions including; Carte de Visite, Hollybush Gardens, London, UK (2015); The Thin Black Line, ICA, London, UK (1986); and Critical, Donald Rodney, Rochdale Art Gallery, Rochdale, UK (1989).
Himid makes paintings, prints, drawings and installations which celebrate Black creativity and the people of the African diaspora while challenging institutional invisibility. She references the slave industry and its legacies, and addresses the hidden and neglected cultural contribution made by real but forgotten people. In Naming the Money 2014, 100 cut-out life size figures depict Black servants and labourers who Himid individualises, giving each of them a name and story to work against the sense of the powerless mass. She often takes her paintings off the gallery wall so that her images become objects that surround the viewer. Whether working on Guardian newspapers or directly onto porcelain tableware, Himid continually subjects painting to the material of everyday life in order to explore Black identity.
After a change in the rules, this was the first time since 1991 that artists over the age of 50 were eligible for the prize, which used to be infamous for rewarding outrageous young British artists.
Tate Britain director Alex Farquharson, who chaired this year’s jury, said there was a desire to celebrate artists who had previously been neglected by the mainstream.
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