As with many interior scenes painted by Lubaina Himid, in Sometimes you don’t know what you’re getting until it’s too late (2020) Himid composes a group portrait blending a provisional sense of comfort and safety with a portentous, encroaching danger. A figure, occupying the centre of the painting, stands beside a kitchenette and holds a goldfinch.
Himid’s frequent inclusion of bird species gestures to their necessary pattern of migration, yet the goldfinch is also notable for its religious symbolism — understood as representing foreknowledge of the crucifixion, the goldfinch is often considered a ‘saviour’ bird as well as an emblem of endurance. In this instance, Himid’s goldfinch designates both a messenger of threatening augury and symbol of resilience, intensified by the figure’s protective handling and guarded gaze. Reinforcing this invisible jeopardy, two figures on the left of the composition hold one another and observe a passing event from an open window. Their posture suggests they are bidding farewell, withstanding the affects of enforced displacement. With its atmosphere of veracity, risk, loss, and persistence, Sometimes you don’t know what you’re getting until it’s too late continues Himid’s assertion of the fraught, complex and concealed histories of colonialism and the diaspora, making visible Black experience through a practice which sustains depiction, remembrance, exchange and transformation.
The Operating Table, is a continuation of a body of work comprising Six Tailors and Three Architects, (both 2019). In this painting, three women of colour are depicted in action, working together but not necessarily in agreement. As with Six Tailors and Three Architects, this work engages with the tradition of history painting in the Western canon, a genre in which epic and heroic scenes of European men are predominant. Himid’s work in this series ushers in diverse, active protagonists, expanding the gamut of narratives in painting.
Old Boat / New Money (2019) is an installation of thirty-two leaning wooden planks in varying shades of grey. The ship-like arrangement and the painted cowry shells evoke histories of the transatlantic slave trade, and more broadly the invisible legacies of colonial exploitation that remain inscribed in art and architecture.
Himid’s Kanga series draws from ‘kangas’—vibrant cotton rectangular fabric traditionally worn by East African women as a shawl, head scarf, baby carrier, and many other ways. Addressing the kangas’ association with identity and personal styling, Himid’s works are emblazoned with evocative slogans, bold patterns and vibrant colours.
Naming the Money, 2004, is an installation composed of 100 cut-outs—figurative paintings created on freestanding, shaped board that allow viewers to walk among them. The cut-out figures in this work represent African slaves in the royal courts of 18th century Europe, put to work in such roles as ceramicists, herbalists, toy makers, dog trainers, shoemakers, map makers and painters. A soundtrack gives voice to the figures, which relay their fluid identities shaped by, and formed in reaction to, global political and economic powers.
Himid’s installation A Fashionable Marriage, 1986, is based on British artist William Hogarth’s 1734 satirical work Marriage a la Mode, which attempted to expose the greed, fashionable excesses and exploitation of affluent 18th century London life. With equal wit, Himid’s installation quotes the compositions in Hogarth’s work to deliver a critique of London’s art scene of the 1980s.
Lubaina Himid: So Many Dreams
Musée cantonal des beaux‑arts Lausanne
4 November 2022 – 5 February 2023
Lubaina Himid: Risquons-Tout
WIELS, Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels, Belgium
12 September 2020 – 28 March 2021
Lubaina Himid: Gifts to Kings
Musée régional d’art contemporain, Pyrénées-Méditerranée, France
7 April – 16 September 2018
Lubaina Himid: The Truth Is Never Watertight
Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe, Germany
8 September – 26 November 2017
EXHIBITIONS AT HOLLYBUSH GARDENS
Knut Henrik Henriksen, Lubaina Himid, Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt, Ellen Lesperance, Nancy Lupo, Manfred Pernice, Stuart Sherman, Hayley Tompkins, Amelie von Wulffen, B. Wurtz
18 November 2021 – 29 January 2022
The Sky Is Leaden In The South: An Evocation Through Grey
Andrea Büttner, Helen Cammock, Lubaina Himid, Ellen Lesperance, Liliana Moro, Ruth Proctor, Charlotte Prodger, Lis Rhodes
13 March – 31 July 2020
I Like What I See And How It Makes Me Feel
Knut Henrik Henriksen, Alejandra Hernández, Lubaina Himid, Reto Pulfer
3 June – 9 July 2016
If a Circle Meets Itself
Peles Empire, Esther Ferrer, Sunil Gupta, Lubaina Himid, Fred Lonidier, Eline McGeorge, Ruth Proctor, Joachim Schmid
30 January – 7 March 2015
Lubaina Himid at Glyndebourne
The Guardian, 8 June 2023
Review: Lubaina Himid at Tate Modern
Review by Zehra Jumabhoy, Artforum, Vol. 60 No. 10, Summer 2022
Feature interview by Charlotte Higgins, The Guardian, 20 November 2021
For Her, Not Me: A department store half-remembered, half-imagined
Contribution by Lubaina Himid, Frieze, No. 222, October 2021
Review: Risquons-Tout at Wiels
Review by Amanda Sarroff, Artforum, Vol. 29 No. 4, January-February 2021
Lubaina Himid: Labor and the Art of Becoming
Review by Antwaun Sargent, The New York Review of Books, 27 December 2019
Review: Lubaina Himid at Frans Hals Museum
Review by Nina Siegal, Artnet, 26 November 2019
Theatricality and Satire in Lubaina Himid’s A Fashionable Marriage
Essay by Mora J. Beauchamp-Byrd, Burlington Contemporary Journal, Issue 2, November 2019
Profiles: Lubaina Himid
Profile by Kadish Morris, Frieze, 2 June 2018
Review: Lubaina Himid at Modern Art Oxford
Review by Lauren Dyer Amazeen, Artforum, Vol. 55 No. 9, May 2017
Lubaina Himid: Revision
Essay by Hannah Black, Afterall, Spring/Summer 2017
Lubaina Himid’s Conversations and Voices
Essay by Griselda Pollock, Afterall, Spring/Summer 2017
Influences: Lubaina Himid
Essay by Lubaina Himid, Frieze, No. 184, January-February 2017
Interview by Imelda Barnard, APOLLO, 17 January 2017
Lubaina Himid at Modern Art Oxford and Spike Island
Review by Lizzie Lloyd, Artnet, 24 January 2017
British Artist Lubaina Himid
Interview by Rachel Spence, Financial Times, 20 January 2017
How the Works of Lubaina Himid Speak to Trump’s Times
Interview by Hettie Judah, The Guardian, 18 January 2017
A Fashionable Marriage
Essay by Lubaina Himid, from The Other Hogarth: Aesthetics of Difference, edited by Bernadette Fort and Angela Rosenthal (Princeton University Press, 2001)
Lubaina Himid (b. 1954, Zanzibar) lives and works in Preston, UK, and is Emeritus Professor of Contemporary Art at the University of Central Lancashire. She is the winner of the 2017 Turner Prize, the 2023 Maria Lassnig Prize and the 2024 Suzanne Deal Booth | Flag Art Foundation Prize.
Himid has exhibited extensively in the UK and abroad. A major monographic exhibition of Himid’s work opened at Tate Modern, London, 2021 and travelled to Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts de Lausanne in 2022. Significant solo exhibitions include Water Has a Perfect Memory, Hollybush Gardens, London (2022); Spotlights, Tate Britain, London (2019); The Grab Test, Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem, The Netherlands (2019); Lubaina Himid, CAPC Bordeaux, France (2019); Work From Underneath, New Museum, New York (2019); Gifts to Kings, MRAC Languedoc Roussillon Midi-Pyrénées, Sérignan (2018); Our Kisses are Petals, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead (2018); The Truth Is Never Watertight, Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe (2017); Navigation Charts, Spike Island, Bristol (2017); and Invisible Strategies, Modern Art Oxford (2017).
Selected group exhibitions include A Fine Tooothed Comb, HOME, Manchester (2023) Sharjah Biennial 15: Thinking Historically in the Present (2023); Rewinding Internationalism, Scenes from the ‘90s, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, Netherlands; When We See Us, Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, Cape Town, South Africa; Globalisto, Musée d’art moderne et contemporain de Saint-Étienne Métropole, Saint-Priest-en-Jarez, France (all 2022); Happy Mechanics, Hollybush Gardens, London, UK; Life Between Islands: Caribbean-British Art 50s-Now, Tate Britain, London, UK; Lubaina Himid – Lost Threads, The British Textile Biennial, The Great Barn, Gawthorpe Hall, Padiham, Burmley, UK; Mixing It Up: Painting Today, Hayward Gallery, London; Relations: Diaspora and Painting, Esker Foundation, Calgary, Canada; Invisible Narratives 2, Yamamoto Keiko Rochaix, London; Unsettled Objects, Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah (all 2021); Frieze Sculpture, London; Risquons-Tout, WIELS, Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels; Slow Painting, Hayward Touring UK travelling exhibition (all 2020); En Plein Air, The High Line, New York (2019–2020); Sharjah Biennial 14, UAE (2019); Glasgow International (2018); Berlin Biennale (2018); The Place is Here, Nottingham Contemporary, UK (2017); Keywords, Tate Liverpool (2014); and Burning Down the House, Gwangju Biennale (2014). Her work is held in various museum and public collections, including Tate; British Council Collection; Arts Council Collection; UK Government Art Collection; Museum Ludwig, Cologne; Victoria & Albert Museum, London; National Museums Liverpool; Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; and Rhode Island School of Design, Providence. A monograph, titled Lubaina Himid: Workshop Manual, was released in 2019 by Koenig Books.
Her work is held in various museum and public collections, including Tate, London, UK; Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany; Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, USA; Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates; Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne, Switzerland; Rennie Collection, Vancouver; Canada; British Council Collection, UK; Arts Council Collection, UK; UK Government Art Collection; Victoria & Albert Museum, London, UK; National Museums Liverpool, Liverpool, UK; Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, UK; and Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, USA.