Ever since the pioneering exhibitions you curated throughout the 1980s, you have always established routes to support and champion other black, and specifically women, artists. A recent New York Times profile heralded your radical generosity toward other artists even while you command solo exhibitions at international institutions. What role does being part of a community of artists play in your life?
I was always going to do that. I’m not afraid to speak out. I was trained as a designer rather than an artist, so I’m used to negotiating. I also make work outside of London. That’s where I do my thinking and testing. I know there are other people out there, near at hand in this small city I live in, holding similar political perspectives. We know others are out there doing this work in different ways. I don’t hold with the idea that you can make really connected work if you see yourself as the only person.
When I look at my finished work, I know who helped me make those things – their energy, their problem-solving, let alone their sheer hard graft. I don’t see myself as this one individual person. And that’s not some high moral ground – I just need to talk to people who are like me. As an only child, I’ve always made the decision to get outside of myself, to connect with other people. It’s why I don’t mind people coming to the studio or talking to me about what I’m doing while I’m doing it. My studio is not a sacred space – it’s a place where I meet people and exchange.
What continues to motivate you working as an artist day in, day out?
There are things I still want to say. Without being morbid, there are 63 years behind me, not 63 ahead of me. I take more risks with subject matter, materials, and the extent to which I can push the viewing space past the point of passive consumption. I want to create a real opportunity to feel and perhaps shift something in the viewer’s mind. Then they might shift something beyond the viewing space that they didn’t feel they could shift before they came in the space.
This interview – conducted on May 15, 2018 at Tate Britain, London – was edited and condensed.
Dr. Zoe Whitley is Curator, International Art, at Tate Modern, London.
Lubaina Himid's work is presented by Hollybush Gardens in the Feature sector of Art Basel in Basel. Feature is dedicated to curated projects by established and historical artists. Participating galleries in 2018 include: Galeria Raquel Arnaud (Arthur Luiz Piza), bitforms gallery (Gary Hill), Galerie Bernard Bouche (Etienne-Martin), Bureau (Matt Hoyt,Patricia Treib), ChertLüdde (Franco Mazzucchelli), James Cohan Gallery (Lee Mullican), Monica De Cardenas (Alex Katz), Fonti (Salvatore Emblema), Galerist (Nil Yalter), Grimm (Elizabeth Price), Barbara Gross Galerie (Jana Sterbak), Hamiltons (Irving Penn), Hanart TZ Gallery (Nilima Sheikh, Qiu Zhijie), Hollybush Gardens (Lubaina Himid), hunt kastner (Dalibor Chatrný), Kalfayan Galleries (Yannis Tsarouchis), Galerie Lange + Pult (Olivier Mosset), Galerie Emanuel Layr (Stano Filko), Galerie Löhrl (Gerhard Richter), Jörg Maass Kunsthandel (Max Beckmann, Otto Dix, Lyonel Feininger, Erich Heckel, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Emil Nolde, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff), Galerie Max Mayer (Jef Geys), Galleria Lorcan O'Neill Roma (Rachel Whiteread), P420 (Paolo Icaro), Franklin Parrasch Gallery (John McLaughlin), Galeria Nara Roesler (Paulo Bruscky), Richard Saltoun Gallery (Helen Chadwick), Galerie Pietro Spartà (Gilberto Zorio), Supportico Lopez (Robert Watts), The Third Line (Fouad Elkoury), Upstream Gallery (Marinus Boezem), and Galerie Zlotowski (Ella Bergmann-Michel, Robert Michel).