Lubaina Himid Breaks Record With Turner Prize 2017 Win

BY Katrina Kufer / Dec 11 2017 / 21:08 PM

The Tanzanian-born British contemporary artist becomes the first woman of colour, as well as the oldest artist at age 63, to win the prestigious art award

Lubaina Himid Breaks Record With Turner Prize 2017 Win
Courtesy of Hollybush Gardens
Lubaina Himid. Le Rodeur, The Exchange. 2016

Following the adjustment last year of the parametres for candidacy, Tanzanian-born and UK-based artist and contemporary art professor Himid has won the 33rd edition of the Turner Prize with a cash prize of £25,000 for her theatrical, visceral works. The three shortlisted artists include painter Hurvin Anderson, Rosalind Nashashibi for her two films set in Gaza and Guatemala, and German-born printmaker and sculptor Andrea Büttner.

Himid, upon receiving the honour in Hull, thanked those who supported her in her “wilderness years,” adding in a statement that previous recognition may have been to a lesser degree due to her body of work being “too complicated to talk about […] I guess the issues I was dealing with were complex, many-layered, and you’ve got to sell newspapers.” The chair of the judging panel Alex Farquharson, also director of Tate Britain, which presents the award, stated that Himid’s works were courageous in their efforts to tackle “difficult, painful” concerns. “Together they offered a great summation of her practice over the last few decades and also revealed how vital her work is at the present moment,” said Farquharson.

Creating new markers in many ways – from age through ethnicity – the decision to celebrate Himid has garnered questions from some, who feel that the artworks which cemented her win date back to 1987 and therefore do not fit into the conditions of showcasing contemporary British talent. Tate has indicated that Himid’s works surpass time-specificity and remain strongly resonant with the present. “They speak to the present moment which has been one of division both in Britain and in America,” he said in a statement.

Himid’s work focuses largely on racial issues, ranging from crockery painted with scenes of slavery from Britain’s colonial history, to scanning pages of popular newspapers for inadvertent racial stereotyping. “I won it for all the times where we put our heads above the parapet, we tried to do things, we failed, people died in the meantime … for all the black women who never did win it even though they had been shortlisted … it feels good for that,” she said of the win.

The Turner Prize celebrates developments in the contemporary British art scene. Previous winners include Rachel Whiteread, Damien Hirst, and most recently, Helen Marten.