Joy Gregory and Whitechapel Gallery Win £110k Freelands Award

Joy Gregory and Whitechapel Gallery win annual £110k Freelands Award

The Freelands Foundation has announced the artist Joy Gregory and the Whitechapel Gallery have won the eighth annual Freelands Award.

Founded in 2015, the Freelands Award is an annual £110,000 prize enabling a UK public arts institution to present a solo exhibition, including new work, by a mid-career woman artist whose work may not have previously received the recognition it deserves. The prize includes a £30,000 fee for the winning artist.

Also shortlisted for this year’s award were Camden Art Centre and Ain Bailey, Chapter and Imogen Stidworthy, Goldsmiths CCA and Christina Mackie, and QUAD and Becky Beasley. Each institution will receive £10,000 towards their respective exhibitions.

In autumn 2025, Whitechapel Gallery will stage Joy Gregory’s first monographic exhibition, surveying a four-decade practice that has influenced generations of younger artists. Almost 100 works spanning analogue and digital photography, video, film installation, performance and textiles will highlight Gregory’s contribution to the development of photography in the UK.

Born in the UK to Jamaican parents, Gregory’s work explores the impact of colonialism on global perceptions of beauty, memory, botany, health and traditional knowledge. Since the 1980s, she has been at the forefront of conversations around the wider cultural politics of identity, race and gender, alongside peers including Claudette Johnson, Veronica Ryan, Ingrid Pollard, Lubaina Himid and Sonia Boyce. These women artists each forged a radical and unique voice, but together came to embody a spirit of self-organisation and community that transformed the British cultural landscape.

A major new commission for the Whitechapel Gallery will bring together strands from the last twenty years of her practice, extending Gregory’s ongoing research into communities in the Kalahari and the descendants of indigenous and enslaved people in the Caribbean and Americas, tracing linguistic and folkloric connections. During the exhibition, Gregory plans to work directly with local young people from Tower Hamlets’ diverse diasporic communities through a series of creative workshops, as well as to curate a public programme exploring the evolution of photography in London since the 1980s when her practice first gained recognition.

Joy Gregory said: “Winning this award is a huge honour and supports a unique opportunity to present my work at Whitechapel Gallery, sharing my belief in the transformative power of photography with their many communities and providing validation for a career dedicated to pushing the boundaries of photography. My journey has been one of exploring the vast possibilities the medium offers, playing with its many forms, and using it to tell overlooked stories, bridge communities, and offer diverse perspectives on the world. I am so very thrilled and proud to be rewarded for what I regard as an unconventional approach.  I hope that my work inspires others to embrace their own passion and innovative ideas.”

Gilane Tawadros, Director of Whitechapel Gallery, said: “We are truly delighted to be the recipient of this year’s Freelands Award.  It allows us to realise the full ambitions for our exhibition of UK-based artist and photographer, Joy Gregory. The ethos behind this important annual award, aligns with our renewed commitment to foregrounding extraordinary women artists, especially those who haven’t yet had the recognition they deserve, championing their contribution to contemporary art and society, and bringing them to the attention of the widest possible audiences: locally, nationally, and internationally.   Long overdue, this exhibition presents work from across four decades, alongside a new commission, substantial publication, and an ambitious artist-led public programme, that will confirm Joy’s legacy as a leading figure in contemporary British and international art.”

The Freelands Award 2023 was selected by a jury comprising Elisabeth Murdoch (Founder and Chair, Freelands Foundation), writer Olivia Laing, curator Elinor Morgan (Artistic Director, MIMA) and artist Ingrid Pollard (winner of the Freelands Award 2020).

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