During a ceremony hosted at 10 Downing Street, Kenyan-born British painter Michael Armitage was celebrated as this year’s recipient of the Robson Orr TenTen Award, presented by the U.K.’s Government Art Collection with Outset Contemporary Art Fund.
His selected lithograph, Ngaben (2023), pays tribute to his friend and fellow artist in Bali, who recently passed away. The print illustrates a burning pyre and reflects on the cycle of life, deriving its name from a Hindu cremation tradition.
Speaking on his art, Armitage noted, “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.”
Annually, the Government Art Collection commissions a single British artist to provide a print to present at diplomatic institutions worldwide. In addition, the print helps the organization fundraise to acquire work from emerging or underrepresented British artists. Previous award winners include Yinka Shonibare in 2020, Lubaina Himid in 2021, and Rachel Whiteread in 2022.
Sybil Robson Orr and Matthew Orr, philanthropists who sponsor the award, also support a multi-year school program, TenTen in Schools. Partnering with Andria Zafirakou MBE, the 2018 Global Teacher Prize winner, the program will introduce Armitage’s TenTen prints into British classrooms to help engage students with contemporary art.
Eliza Gluckman, director of the Government Art Collection, remarked, “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 U.K.’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. Michael Armitage’s moving print marks the importance of international and intergenerational peer support of artists.”