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Now in its fourth year, we are delighted to to announce that the 2021 The Robson Orr TenTen Award has been awarded to Lubaina Himid CBE. Himid’s Old Boat, New Weather features the traditional elements of painted seascapes; the harbour, the impending storm and the boat itself are reinvented in Lubaina Himid’s screen print through archive photographic imagery and woven colour.

For the first time, the Award is also presented digitally on The Robson Orr TenTen Virtual Gallery, available for international audiences to view online via The virtual gallery is inspired by the architecture of the Government Art Collection’s premises at the Old Admiralty Building in London, allowing users to navigate works of art commissioned by the award and also purchased through the TenTen Acquisitions Fund, featuring artists including Sonia Boyce, Khadija Saye and Matthew Krishanu. The gallery is presented in partnership with philanthropic initiative theVOV – co-founded by Outset and art-science collective Visualogical – with technology provided by Vortic Art.

The print has been commissioned as part of a ten-year initiative produced by Outset with the Government Art Collection (GAC), and 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 Outset to raise funds for the GAC acquisition fund. The 10-year scheme was launched in 2018 with the inaugural award given to the artist Hurvin Anderson. This was then followed in 2019 with award given to Tacita Dean and in 2020 with Yinka Shonibare CBE’s commission.

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 composition brings together familiar motifs in Himid’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. The artist, 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.

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.

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.”

The Government Art Collection

The Government Art Collection (GAC), established in 1898, is a national collection of historic, modern and contemporary British art that is displayed in government buildings in the UK and around the world. These locations include 10 & 11 Downing Street, government departments and residences and offices of British Ambassadors, High Commissioners and Consulates-General across 155 capital cities worldwide. The Collection, seen by thousands of visitors annually, promotes British art and contributes to cultural diplomacy. We work to widen engagement with audiences beyond government through partnerships and participation in local, national and international events.