RCA Society

Lubaina Himid wins the Turner Prize 2017

The Turner Prize for Art was set up in 1984.  Given the association of 1984 with a ‘Big Brother’ society has the Prize changed over the past thirty or so years since its inception and have the participating artists works influenced its direction? 

The £20,000 Turner prize was established by the Patrons of New Art whose remit was to “assist the Tate Gallery to acquire new art works so as to encourage wider public interest in contemporary (and young) art.”  The award, which over the years, slightly increased in monetry value was restricted to artists, curators, critics… originally under the age of 40… (perfect for an ambitious ‘Thatcherite’ generation desperate for instant fame and fortune). This year all that changed. The age limit was removed this year and artists ‘judged’ to have produced an influential exhibition in the preceding year were shortlisted by a panel of experts with a ‘nod’ to the public.

What does winning the Turner Prize mean to artists now?

Well, the Prize currently stands at a useful £25,000 (for cash-strapped artists) and supplemented by an exhibition at the Tate Gallery in London though this year the exhibtion and award ceremony was held at the Ferens Gallery, Hull (given that Hull is enjoying it’s Capital of Culture status) and bucket loads of publicity through coverage on all major news media.

Can artists of critical integrity, which hopefully comes with age and experience, change the Turner Prize’s record of banal competitive culture which produces superficial artworks ?

This year’s winner - Lubaina Himid, was not only being applauded for being a Black woman but also for being the ‘oldest’ artist (63 years old) to have won the prize. However, Himid is not a newcomer to the artworld. She’s enjoyed long professional experience. She has taught for many years in higher education, holds a ‘professorship’ at the University of Central Lancashire, has an MBE, has held board memberships on the ACE, Matts Gallery, Tate Liverpool, the GLA and is a graduate of the Royal College of Art (MA in Cultural History from the RCA in 1984)… so a safe pair of (old) hands in which to place a prize which has often lost its way.

Himid’s work is stylistic, visually decorative representations around ‘black african’ identity under the impression of empire. It’s not hard hitting rhetoric as in political art tradition - her work is more subtly understated comment.

In an early work “Ballad of the Wing” - (an installation exhibited at Chisenhale Gallery in 1989) she states:

‘…the work ‘is at one and the same time an homage to Black Creativity and a critique  of theft and denial. The work requires a participation and an engagement…’. She goes on to write  ‘…Only laziness and racism can be at the heart of a wilful neglect of the real contributors to past creativity: anonimity is easy to manipulate’. 

see AND Journal of Art & Art Education issue number 21 -1990 pp13-16

The Turner Prize exhibition of all the shortlisted artists,  Hurvin Anderson, Andrea B├╝ttner, Lubaina Himid, Rosalind Nashashibi, is showing at the Ferens Art Gallery - Hull till 7 January 2018.