Lubaina Himid, a Zanzibar-born British artist, has won a commission for the UK’s Government Art Collection. The announcement was made at 11 Downing Street, home of Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, by the new culture minister Julia Lopez, who took over on 16 September.
Hamid’s commission was done against the background of Black Lives Matter, she tells The Art Newspaper. A figurative artist, she has been a supporter of Black artists since the 1980s. In 2017 she won the Turner Prize, awarded by Tate, and she will shortly have a major exhibition at Tate Modern (25 November-3 July 2022).
Old Boat, New Weather, the commission for the Government Art Collection, is a screenprint depicting a shack being carried on a sailing ship, with a European building on the harbourside. The “sky”, pushing down on the vessel, is a grid of blue and grey lines.
Himid says “the whole of history is in the harbour”. She sees Old Boat, New Weather as representing a future where climate change will cause mass displacement. Her image juxtaposes safety and danger, architecture and ships, slavery and imperial trade—with an ark, symbolising a place of refuge.
The commission was awarded by the Robson Orr TenTen Award, funded by Sybil Robson Orr (a US film producer) and her husband Matthew Orr (financial services entrepreneur). It is for ten commissions in ten years.
The annual project involves commissioning a print from a leading contemporary artist. Previous winners have included Yinka Shonibare (2020) and Tacita Dean (2019). Fifteen copies of the print go to the government collection, for display in official buildings in the UK and embassies abroad. Eleven others are sold through the Outset Contemporary Art Fund, a London-based international charity, to raise funds to buy works by emerging talent for the collection.
The Government Art Collection already has two works by Himid, the acrylic Le Rodeur: the Pulley (2017) and the print The sweet sharp taste of limes (2018). In announcing the commission, Lopez describes Hamid’s commission as “a shining example”.