Lubaina Himid has become the oldest artist ever to win the Tate’s Turner Prize, at the age of 63. The DJ and musician Goldie presented this year’s £25,000 award at a ceremony in Hull.
Lubaina Himid’s Turner Prize win is richly deserved. Her paintings and painterly sculptural tableaux, teeming with powerful political and social messages and no shortage of absurdity and wry humour, have been a consistent, if too little acknowledged, presence on the British art scene for decades. But her win raises all sorts of questions about the Turner Prize’s past, present and future.
Himid’s room in the exhibition is a riot of colour, drama and joyfully exuberant works that reveal darker – even dangerous – aspects the more you look. There is a stage-set of larger-than-life, cut-out figures based on William Hogarth’s Marriage à La Mode. First exhibited in 1987, it shows Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan locked in a wild flirtation, while hideous figures from the art world look on, the critic sporting at his neck a frill made out of condoms. The two black slave-servants from Hogarth’s original have become giant, serene figures, regarding the scene with baleful dignity. Himid decided to show it again for the exhibition “because I could not believe that we had a female prime minister and a laughable US president in power again”.
The Turner Prize exhibition, which travels every two years to a different city outside London, was held this year in partnership with Hull as UK City of Culture. The show at the renovated Ferens Art Gallery includes Himid’s ceramic dinner service tracing the history of the slave trade and its abolition, and her satirical tableau of cut-out painted figures inspired by William Hogarth’s Marriage à la Mode.
Alex Farquharson, the director of Tate Britain told “offered a great summation of her practice over the past few decades and also revealed how vital her work is at the present moment”. All of which is a rather loose interpretation of “new developments” in art.
The works are joined by Anderson’s dream-like tropical landscape paintings, Büttner’s woodblock prints of beggars and two films by Nashashibi—a commission for the Imperial War Museum observing daily life in Gaza and Vivian’s Garden, which explores the relationship between the mother-and-daughter artists in Guatemala, Elisabeth Wild and Vivian Suter. The exhibition has proved one of the most popular in Turner Prize history, attracting 90,000 visitors to date. It runs until 7 January 2018.