The Turner Prize winning British artist Richard Long was awarded the Whitechapel Gallery Art Icon Award, at a gala dinner at Banking Hall in the City of London. Surrounded by artists and art world luminaries, Long was presented the award on the night by Edmund de Waal, honouring the lifetime achievement of one of our greatest artists.
A recent large-scale clay diptych, photography and text works were installed between the pillars of the hall, which – alongside a publication specially produced with the artist for the occasion – showed works from every decade of Long’s prolific career from the 1960s to the present day.
Iwona Blazwick OBE, Director of the Whitechapel Gallery, and Nadja Swarovski, Chairperson of the Swarovski Foundation, welcomed the 150 guests to the evening in honour of the artist. Representing the panel of experts who chose Richard Long as the Whitechapel Gallery Art Icon 2015, Director of The Art Fund Stephen Deuchar read a citation in praise of his pioneering work as an artist who has transformed sculpture, performance and photography. Writer and artist Edmund de Waal personally presented the award, specially made by Swarovski and designed in collaboration with the Whitechapel Gallery.
Guests included artists Michael Craig-Martin, Hamish Fulton, Antony Gormley, Michael Landy, Heather Phillipson, Bob and Roberta Smith, Gillian Wearing, Sue Webster, Rachel Whiteread and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye alongside Richard Long’s friends and supporters including Alan Cristea (Gallerist), Ann Gallagher (Curator and Head of Collections at Tate), Nicholas Logsdail (Gallerist), Farshid Moussavi (Architect), Maureen Paley (Gallerist), Colin Renfrew (Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn), David Rocksavage (David Cholmondeley, 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley), Alex Sainsbury (Chair of the Board of Trustees, Whitechapel Gallery), Victoria Siddall (Director, Frieze Fairs), Lydia Yee (Chief Curator, Whitechapel Gallery) and many more.
Guests bought tickets for the evening to help raise £163,555 for the Whitechapel Gallery’s Education and Community programmes. An auction led by Oliver Barker of Sotheby’s and introduced by Alex Sainsbury featured work donated by leading artists in homage to Long, including Matthew Darbyshire’s glittering gold leaf bollard, Long’s friend and contemporary Hamish Fulton’s work reminiscing on a 1960s performance by the artist, and Michael Rakowitz’s reinterpretation of Long’s iconic ALine Made by Walking with A Line Made from Looting. Artists included: Francis Alÿs, Broomberg & Chanarin, Matthew Darbyshire, Michael Dean, Hamish Fulton, Georg Herold, Jannis Kounellis, Heather Phillipson, Paola Pivi, Michael Rakowitz, Wilhelm Sasnal, Adrián Villar Rojas and Jesse Wine.
The Whitechapel Gallery Art Icon award was given to Richard Long for his presence as a central figure in contemporary art for over half a century. 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. The artist was chosen by a panel of 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. The initiative is generously supported by the Swarovski Foundation, whose commitment to the arts and to nurturing creative talent in art and design has a long established heritage.
Richard 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.