Himid is the first woman of color as well as the oldest at 63—outdated age restrictions were finally lifted this year—to be given the leading British contemporary art award, Apollo Magazine reports, adding “it’s a moment of national recognition that feels long overdue.”
Himid suddenly finds herself in the spotlight is especially poignant, not least because her own work has consistently fought against invisibility, particularly in an institutional context. Since the 1980s, in works that are daring, political, and skilful, she has called for due acknowledgement of the black presence in British life. Her work, she says, demonstrates ‘that black people have contributed to European cities – many were built on the money earned from the slave trade – and have influenced the cultural landscape’.
Best known for her paintings, installations and drawings depicting African diaspora, samples of Himid’s work was exhibited at Ferens Art Gallery in Hull, England including a collection of English jelly moulds painted with the images of slaves. Her work not only acknowledges and celebrates the contribution of the African diaspora, but also serves as an inextricable link with the legacy of colonialism and oppression.
Her pioneering career as an artist, curator and scholar has been vital in challenging the Western canon of art history, museological practices and exoticization in art of persons of color over the past 30 years, The New York Times adds.
Alex Farquharson, Tate Britain’s director and the chairman of the Turner Prize jury, said in a statement that the jury “praised the artist for her uncompromising tackling of issues including colonial history and how racism persists today.” Ms. Himid won for three of her shows this year, in Oxford, Bristol and Nottingham, he said.
The exhibitions cited include Invisible Strategies at Modern Art Oxford, Navigation Charts at Spike Island and The Place is Here at Nottingham Contemporary. In an Corridor8 interview with Himid, she discusses this wrestling of cultural identity and heritage in the modern art world.
What happened with those exhibitions is that I had some really intense, intelligent conversations with the curators, and so there were ways in which those works were presented that were completely different to the ways they had been originally shown. Many of those works were made in response to, and displayed within, the context of the museum. To show that work in galleries is very rare for me. Very often, the paintings were to do with my relationship with audiences: people who come to museums and have chance encounters with my work, which has often been developed as a counter to objects already in the museum.
Watch this video from Himid discussing her three exhibitions this year.
In November, Himid was named Artist of the Year by international art journal Apollo Magazine.
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