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Wednesday 6 October 2021

Turner Prize-winning artist wins the annual Robson Orr TenTen Award

Professor Lubaina Himid creates new work to be displayed in Government buildings across the world

A Turner Prize-winning professor from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has won another prestigious art award.

The annual Robson Orr TenTen Award 2021 has been presented by the Government Art Collections (GAC) to UCLan’s Professor of Contemporary Art Lubaina Himid CBE.

The award was presented to Professor Himid, coinciding with the unveiling of her new work Old Boat, New Weather, at No 11 Downing Street by Julia Lopez MP, Minister of State, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and Penny Johnson CBE, Director of the Government Art Collection (GAC). Sybil Robson Orr and Matthew Orr and Candida Gertler OBE, Co-Founder and Co-Director of Outset Contemporary Art Fund, also attended.

The Robson Orr TenTen Award is presented by the GAC with Outset Contemporary Art Fund and is sponsored by leading philanthropists Sybil Robson Orr and Matthew Orr. Every year a British artist is commissioned to create a unique, limited edition print to be shown in diplomatic buildings across the world. A small number are available for purchase through a collaboration with the pioneering philanthropic arts organisation Outset to raise funds for the GAC acquisition fund. The 10-year scheme was launched in 2018 with the first three awards given to Hurvin Anderson (2018), Tacita Dean (2019) and Yinka Shonibare (2020).

The traditional elements of painted seascapes are found in Old Boat, New Weather: the harbour, the impending storm and the boat itself are reinvented in Professor Himid’s screen print through archive photographic imagery and woven colour. The composition brings together familiar motifs in the UCLan scholar’s practice, referencing the juxtaposition of safety and danger, architecture and ships, slavery and imperial trade. The lower section of the print shows a vessel, part-ship and part-shack, in a European harbour. Lubaina, moved by an encounter with the dilapidated dwellings of freed slaves in Carolina (USA) has monumentalised a barn-like structure, fixing it to a trade ship. The effect is that of an ark; a symbol for a place of refuge.

Himid said of the idea that ‘the whole of history is in the harbour – but we know that this story will set sail.’ The image itself is ‘a chance to hold history back’. Always hinting at what is not visible, Old Boat, New Weather is both stalling history, and preparing for a future where the climate will cause mass displacement.

The ‘sky’ is built up into grid-like layers of crossing colours that tilt the work into the abstract. The multicoloured stripes, between opacity and transparency, use subtle nuances of colour mixing to take advantage of the screen print technique, achieving what cannot be done with painting. Patterns commonly feature in Lubaina Himid’s practice – working closely with the printmaker, Magda Stawarska-Beavan, and influenced by 1960s Polish theatre posters, they built the colours step by step in 19 printed layers.

In 2019 Himid created the sculptural work Old Boat/New Money whilst in residence at Porthmeor Studios, St Ives, Cornwall, in a space once occupied by the painter Ben Nicholson. Thirty-two wooden planks are painted in different variations of grey. Old Boat, New Weather continues her narrative on the legacy of maritime travel.

DCMS Minister of State Julia Lopez MP said: "I'm delighted that, thanks to the generosity of the Robson Orr TenTen award, this work by Lubaina Himid will now form part of the Government Art Collection, where it will be enjoyed by visitors to the collection's many displays in Government buildings across the world."

Penny Johnson CBE, Director of GAC, added: “We were thrilled to work with Lubaina Himid, the fourth artist to be commissioned for the TenTen Robson Orr Award. Old Boat, New Weather by Lubaina Himid is a striking and complex print, which will be seen by the many thousands of visitors to UK government buildings around the world, contributing to the promotion of British art and cultural diplomacy. We are so grateful to Sybil Robson Orr and Matthew Orr for providing this exciting opportunity by their very generous commitment to the Government Art Collection over 10 years, from 2018 to 2028. It is the most substantial and sustained sponsorship by individuals in the Collection's history.”

Candida Gertler OBE, Co-Founder, Co-Director and Trustee of Outset Contemporary Art Fund, said: “Outset is delighted to have established this fruitful private/public partnership, now in its fourth year, that continues to grow and flourish as we see important art made in Britain reflect on our culture each year. We are so thrilled to launch the Robson Orr TenTen Virtual Gallery presented on the VOV. This step into the digital realm will make this significant collection accessible to the world in an unprecedented way. Adding this extended reality dimension to our partnership will help to build an incredible exhibition archive adding to the lasting legacy that is fundamental to Outset’s ambition. Looking into the future we are going to see a remarkable body of over 200 works in 2028, responding to how the UK has navigated this decade. We couldn’t be more delighted to be here at the very outset of this significant step into virtual realm.”

Sybil Robson Orr and Matthew Orr said: “For the fourth iteration of the Robson Orr TenTen Award, we are delighted to support the production of Old Boat, New Weather, a new commissioned screenprint edition by Lubaina Himid. After such an extraordinary year it feels fitting to have this powerful work about histories, refuge and home as the 2021 print. Over this ten-year project, an artist is selected annually by the Government Art Collection and its Advisory Committee and commissioned to create a new print edition that joins the Collection. Celebrating art by leading British artists, TenTen ensures that their work is represented and enjoyed by visitors and staff in British government buildings and embassies around the world. We extend our thanks to Outset who introduced us to the Government Art Collection and are a key part of this impactful journey. TenTen contributes towards the continuing development of the Government Art Collection, that plays such a vital role promoting British art and culture globally.”

For the first time, the Award is presented digitally on The Robson Orr TenTen Virtual Gallery, available for international audiences to view online via www.thevov.art/tenten.

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