In a ceremony at 10 Downing Street, the acclaimed British/Nairobi artist Michael Armitage was bestowed with the Robson Orr TenTen Award 2023 by the Government Art Collection. The unveiling of his new work, “Ngaben,” took place amidst the presence of Arts and Heritage Minister Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, Sybil Robson Orr, Matthew Orr, and Candida Gertler OBE, the Co-Founder and Co-Director of Outset Contemporary Art Fund.
Armitage’s sublime print, “Ngaben,” is a poignant tribute to an artist-friend in Bali, Indonesia, who recently passed away. Depicting the Hindu cremation ceremony, Ngaben, the lithograph captures the essence of the intimate cycle of life, particularly focusing on the burning pyre. This artwork unveiled at 10 Downing Street, will soon find its place in diplomatic buildings worldwide, thanks to the Robson Orr TenTen Award.
The Robson Orr TenTen Award, presented annually in collaboration with Outset Contemporary Art Fund and sponsored by philanthropists Sybil Robson Orr and Matthew Orr, celebrates British artists’ creativity. A renowned British artist is commissioned each year to create a limited-edition print, enhancing the cultural tapestry of diplomatic spaces globally. Armitage joins the esteemed ranks of previous awardees, including Hurvin Anderson, Tacita Dean, Yinka Shonibare, Lubaina Himid, and Rachel Whiteread.
In a significant stride this year, Sybil Robson Orr and Matthew Orr generously support a multi-year school program, TenTen in Schools. In partnership with Andria Zafirakou MBE, 2018 Global Teacher Prize winner, this innovative initiative brings the TenTen prints into schools across the UK, fostering creativity and art appreciation among young minds.
Speaking about his artistic journey, Armitage shared, “Culture exists in the most difficult moments of people’s lives, at points at which they grieve and points at which they experience loss; it exists in celebration; it’s a reminder that we’re not here as isolated individuals, we’re here as something greater, and we have a responsibility to each other. For me, that’s really what it is to be an artist… It’s a tough thing to quantify but entirely necessary.”
Armitage, renowned for his innovative oil paintings on Lubugo bark cloth, merges European painting styles with East African subjects and materials. His narratives, often drawn from news media, popular Culture, and personal experiences, weave a mesmerising tapestry where the real meets the ethereal. Born in Nairobi, Kenya, Armitage’s art reflects his diverse heritage, capturing the essence of his East African upbringing and his experiences in London, Bali, and Nairobi.
Eliza Gluckman, Director of Government Art Collection, expressed her gratitude for the partnership, stating, “Since 2018, the innovative model for the Robson Orr TenTen Award has not only seen the creation of six impactful prints by some of the UK’s most celebrated artists but has also generated funds to support the acquisition of works by 27 artists, adding works by artists such as Sonia Boyce and Barbara Walker to the Collection.”
Outset Contemporary Art Fund, an esteemed international charity fostering innovative art projects, continues to play a pivotal role in this initiative. Their catalytic philanthropy and commitment to arts education have been instrumental in the success of the TenTen in Schools program.
With the unwavering support of philanthropists, educators, and artists, the Robson Orr TenTen Award stands as a beacon of artistic innovation and educational enrichment, inspiring generations and shaping the future of British art.
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