Probably the best known prize of its type went to an artist who has a long history of dealing with the subject of race …
HISTORY was made last night when Lubaina Himid became the first black woman and the oldest recipient of one of the UK’s top art accolades, The Turner Prize.
She was handed the £25,000 award by DJ, producer and pop figure Goldie at a glittering BBC televised ceremony in Hull Minister, Hull, Yorkshire.
Himid’s work very much deals with perspectives on race, and explores colonial history and how racism continues to cast shadows over present race relations.
She is 63 and has won the award after its rules were changed to encompass artists over the age of 50.
On winning, she said: “To the art and cultural historians who cared enough to write essays about my work for decades – thank you, you gave me sustenance in the wilderness years.”
This morning talking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme and presenter Mishal Husain, she said she created art with racial dimensions to provoke discussion and debate.
One of her iconic works is the ‘Swallow Hard: The Lancaster Dinner Service’ a mock porcelain dinner set which has painted black slave figures and aristocratic types vomiting at the thought of slavery being abolished.
Himid told Husain that she was drawing attention to the wealth created in Britain from the slave trade.
“They were not just over there,” she said, “but over here.”
In effect, it is an act of rememberance and recognition of both suffering and exploitation.
She told Husain that not only did she want people to enjoy the work – described as theatrical, witty and challenging – but make them think enough to act.
“I want them to go out of the gallery and do something. We need to talk about it, everyone needs to do a tiny thing to shift things,” she declared.
She also said the subject of race deserved more attention than it got because there was misunderstanding and ignorance.
“If we talked about it more, taught it more and discussed it more, especially young people today would get a really better idea of why Britain looks like it does and feel like it does.”
Two black men have been Turner Prize winners in the past: Chris Ofili (1998) and Steve McQueen (1999) now a filmmaker, who made ‘12 Years A Slave’. Anish Kapoor was the first ever non-white recipient in 1991.
The traditional display of Turner shortlisted artists (this year – Hurvin Anderson, Andrea Büttner, and Rosalind Nashashibi) is being hosted at Ferens Art Gallery in Hull in recognition of its status as UK City of Culture.
More than 90,000 people have visited the exhibition which continues until January 7. Entry is free.
The Tate, which administers the prize said of Himid’s win: “The jury applauded the four nominated artists for their socially engaged and visually imaginative work.
“They awarded the prize to Lubaina Himid for a trio of outstanding shows in Oxford, Bristol and Nottingham.
“They praised the artist for her uncompromising tackling of issues including colonial history and how racism persists today.
“They admire her expansive and exuberant approach to painting which combines satire and a sense of theatre. The jury also acknowledged her role as an influential curator and educator who continues to speak urgently to the moment.”
The members of the jury were Dan Fox, writer and co-editor of Frieze; Martin Herbert, art critic; Mason Leaver-Yap, Walker Art Center’s Bentson Scholar of Moving Image and Associate Curator at KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin; and Emily Pethick, director of Showroom. The jury was chaired by Alex Farquharson, Director of Tate Britain.
Himid has been working since the 1980s and was part of the British black arts movement that emerged at the time. Her work on display at the Turner Prize exhibition includes wooden figures, pottery and newspapers daubed with other images to draw attention to the way black people are represented in the mass media.
Himid is professor of contemporary art the University of Central Lancashire and lives in Preston. She was awarded an MBE for services to art in 2010.
She was born in Zanzibar, Tanzania and came to the UK as a young child.
All pictures: Courtesy of The Turner Prize (Tate)
Ferens Art Gallery, Hull Culture & Leisure, Queen Victoria Square, Hull HU1 3RA
Check site for times and other details: http://www.hcandl.co.uk/ferens