The Whitechapel Gallery Art Icon honours the lifetime achievements of one of the UK’s greatest artists, Richard Long. The award will be presented at a special gala dinner hosted by Whitechapel Gallery Director Iwona Blazwick OBE on 19 March 2015.
Richard Long makes sculptures, photographs and text works documenting his journeys around the world, from long walks across Dartmoor in south Devon, England to the icy peaks of the Ellsworth Mountains in Antarctica. He has been in the vanguard of conceptual art in Britain since he created A Line Made by Walking in 1967, while still a student. This photograph of the path left by his feet in the grass, a fixed line of movement, established a precedent that art could be a journey.
Long was born in Bristol, UK in 1945, where he continues to live and work. He studied at the West of England College of Art, Bristol (1962–65), then St Martin’s School of Art, London (1966–68). Richard Long’s critically acclaimed first major UK solo exhibition took place at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1971. Including Pine Needles (1971), a huge diagonal cross of pine needles spreading across the main gallery and A Straight Walk from the Bottom to the Top of Silbury Hill (1970), a chalky spiral of boot prints representing the distance described in the title, the exhibition caused shockwaves when it was unveiled to the British public. A second exhibition in 1977 titled The North Woods, under the early directorship of Nicholas Serota, included sculptures and photographs of his recent projects.
Major solo exhibitions include Tate Britain, London (2009), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2006), National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto (1996), Philadelphia Museum of Art (1994), Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (1986) and The Hayward Gallery, London (1985). Long represented Britain at the 37th Venice Biennale (1976) and won the Turner Prize in 1989 after being shortlisted four times. He was awarded Japan’s Praemium Imperiale in the field of sculpture (2009) and was made a CBE in 2013.
The artist was chosen by a panel of art experts chaired by Iwona Blazwick: Stephen Deuchar, Director, The Art Fund; Ann Gallagher, Head of Collections (British Art), Tate; and, Jackie Wullschlager, Chief Art Critic, The Financial Times.
Guests are invited to buy tickets for the Whitechapel Gallery Art Icon gala dinner supported by The Swarovski Foundation and take part in a charity auction to help raise funds for the Gallery’s Education and Community programme, which works with thousands of children and young people each year. The auction, led by Sotheby’s Oliver Barker, features works donated to the Gallery by leading artists.
Whitechapel Gallery Director Iwona Blazwick OBE said, ‘Richard Long revolutionised installation art, fusing together performance, landscape, language and photography. His 1971 exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery was radical, filling the space with a huge cross made of pine needles. He is the Whitechapel Gallery Art Icon because he is a pioneer. At a time when concern about the environment is critical and live art, sculpture and performance poetry is seeing a huge resurgence, Richard Long has never been more important. He is a revelation and inspiration to successive generations of artists.’
Nadja Swarovski, Chairperson of the Swarovski Foundation said: ‘The Swarovski Foundation is proud to support the Whitechapel Gallery Art Icon Award, in recognising Richard Long. Richard’s sensitivity in respecting the environment and his use of elements from nature are incredibly powerful and inspiring. The Whitechapel Gallery’s annual fundraiser, raises important funds to transform the lives of children and young people through educational programmes across art, design and culture. The Foundation is honoured to partner with the Whitechapel Gallery as part of its Culture and Creativity pillar to empower and support the development of the next generation to engage with contemporary art and ideas.’
Richard Long (b.1945, Bristol, UK) studied at the West of England College of Art, Bristol (1962–65) and St Martin’s School of Art, London (1966–68). In 1969, Long was included in a seminal exhibition of Minimalist and Conceptual works entitled When Attitude Becomes Form at the Kunsthalle Bern for which he made a walk in the Alps that was documented by his first text work. After 1969, Long began making journeys and sculptures in wilderness places all around the world, documenting his walks with photographs, maps, and text works. In the 1980s, Long began making new types of mud works using handprints applied directly to the wall. He also continued to make large sculptures of lines and circles from slate, driftwood, footprints or stone, often sourced from quarries near the exhibition sites.
Richard Long has been at the forefront of conceptual art in Britain since he created A Line Made by Walking (1967). This photograph of the path left by his feet in the grass, a fixed line of movement, established a precedent that art could be a journey. Through this medium of walking, time, space and distance became new subjects for his art. From that time he expanded his walks to wilderness regions all over the world. He mediates his experience of these places, from mountains through to deserts, shorelines, grasslands, rivers and snowscapes, according to archetypal geometric marks and shapes, made by his footsteps alone or gathered from the materials of the place. These walks and temporary works of passage are recorded with photographs, maps and text works, where measurements of time and distance, place names and phenomena are vocabulary for both original ideas and powerful, condensed narratives.
Major solo exhibitions include: Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin (2010), Tate Britain, London (2009), Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh (2007), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2006), National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto (1996), Philadelphia Museum of Art (1994) Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (1986) and The Hayward Gallery, London (1985). He represented Britain at the 37th Venice Biennale (1976) and won the Turner Prize in 1989 after being shortlisted four times. He received the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French Ministry of Culture (1990), has been elected to the Royal Academy of Arts, London (2001). He was awarded Japan’s Praemium Imperiale in the field of sculpture (2009) and was made a CBE in 2013.