‘First of all, to the people who have stopped me in the streets in Preston and Hull to wish me luck – thank you, it worked,’ said Himid upon DJ and artist Goldie presenting her with this year’s Turner Prize. Not reflecting on the work or the prize, Himid went on to thank a number of people, including her mother, friends, studio assistants and gallerists, who have been crucial in her three-decade career.
‘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. And thank you Susan (Walsh) for never allowing me to give up and never throwing away my work,’ continued the artist.
Nominated for her two solo shows at Modern Art Oxford and Spike Island as well as her participation in The Place Is Here at Nottingham Contemporary, Himid fought off strong competition from fellow artists Hurvin Anderson, Andrea Büttner and Rosalind Nashashibi, in a year considered to be one of the most diverse shortlists in the Turner Prize’s history.
The jury applauded all the artists for their ‘socially engaged and visually imaginative work,’ and praised Himid for being an influential curator and educator, singling out her ‘uncompromising tackling of issues including colonial history and how racism persists today.’
In its 33 years (no prize was awarded in 1990), the Turner Prize has been won by just seven female artists, making Himid the eighth and first woman of colour to win the award. At 63, she is also the oldest artist to win the award, after organisers opened it up to artists over the age of 50.
Born in Zanzibar, Himid came to the UK in the 1960s. She studied Theatre Design at Wimbledon College of Art before completing her MA in Cultural History at the Royal College of Art. Her work focuses on the African diaspora and the place of black people within art history.
The central piece of Himid’s Turner Prize exhibition is her A Fashionable Marriage (1986), which references William Hogarth’s Marriage a la Mode (1743-45). Here, Himid creates a theatrical installation in which to critique key figures of the 1980s. Using satire as Hogarth did in his painting series, Himid parodies various contemporary characters, including former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and ex-American President Ronald Reagan as flirting lovers.
As Sacha Craddock, one of this year’s Turner Prize curators notes in the exhibition catalogue: ‘The audience for this piece may have shifted in terms of their expectation of the representation of black people, but the hypocrisy is unchanged. A new US president flirts with a new British prime minster, again, within the same implied special relationship. At many levels everything, yet nothing, has changed.’
A highlight of the Hull UK City of Culture 2017 programme, this year’s Turner Prize has attracted over 10,000 visitors a week since it opened in late September. On my visit to the exhibition, the gallery was packed with young schoolchildren, who were all engaged in the work on view and particularly attentive to the films by Rosalind Nashashibi.
‘At Tate our mission is to promote public understanding and enjoyment of British modern and contemporary art,’ said Maria Balshaw, Director of Tate, at the awards ceremony. ‘We want as many people around the UK to see and engage with the greatest art of today. That’s why every other year the Tuner Prize is staged in a different city outside of London.’
As Goldie says: ‘The Turner Prize is one of most important art prizes, whether outrageous, curious or challenging, it’s always relevant, as demonstrated by these works.’ So make sure you see this year’s exhibition before it closes in January, 2018.
The Turner Prize 2017 is on view at Ferens Art Gallery, Queen Victoria Square, Carr Lane, Hull, HU1 3RA until January 7, 2018.
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