Lubaina Himid, a sculptor, painter, and installation artist born in what was then Zanzibar and based in Preston in northern England, has won the 2017 Turner Prize. According to the Guardian, she is not only the oldest artist to receive the UK’s top contemporary art prize, at 63 (until this year, only artists under 50 were eligible), but also the first woman of color to win it.
“To the art and cultural historians who cared enough to write essays about my work for decades — thank you, you gave me sustenance in the wilderness years,” Himid said during her acceptance speech, according to BBC News. Her work — which includes portraits of enslaved people painted on jugs, plates, newspapers, and other domestic objects, as well as full-size cutouts of figures in colorful historical costumes — not only examines the histories of colonialism and the slave trade, but also the way their effects continue to play out in society today. Of the visibility that comes with winning the Turner Prize, she said: “I think it will get people talking, which is the point of my work.”
Himid was announced the winner at a ceremony today at the Ferens Art Gallery in Hull, which is currently hosting the Turner Prize exhibition. The award was presented by the British DJ Goldie, who made a point of praising the work of all the short-listed artists (the other nominees were Rosalind Nashashibi, Hurvin Anderson, and Andrea Büttner), according to the Independent. “It’s good that the artists are digging deep,” he said, “challenging people’s perceptions.”
Beyond the current Turner Prize exhibition, which continues through January 7, 2018, Himid currently has a solo exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. Earlier this year she had another major solo show at Modern Art Oxford.
The Turner Prize, which has been given out annually since 1984, comes with a £25,000 (~$33,520) purse and a huge boost in visibility. Previous winners are a who’s-who of contemporary art and include Gilbert and George, Anish Kapoor, Rachel Whiteread, Damien Hirst, Chris Ofili, Steve McQueen, Grayson Perry, and Laure Prouvost. Himid, meanwhile, was very humble about her plans for the prize money.
“I spend quite a lot of my money working with other artists, sometimes asking them to make things or helping them to make things when maybe they didn’t get a grant or whatever,” she told BBC News. “So I’ll do a bit of that. And I’ll buy some shoes.”