The United Kingdom’s government on Tuesday selected Kenyan-born artist Michael Armitage to display his art in State buildings.
Armitage’s print, titled Ngaben, was unveiled at 10 Downing Street as the artist was awarded the 2023 Robson Orr TenTen Award, a distinguished honour accorded to artists who display their art on government buildings.
Government Art Collection (GAC), a national collection of British art displayed worldwide, presented the award to Armitage.
The painting depicts a Hindu ceremony that shows the life cycle, from when one dies and reincarnates in the afterlife. The art showed mask-like faces crowding the bottom of the print while two women held each other as they watched the flames.
United Kingdom officials holding Kenyan-born artist Michael Armitage’s art in London on October 10, 2023.
While speaking about the art, Armitage said that his painting seeks to highlight and celebrate diversity in culture.
“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,” he stated.
“For me, that’s really what it is to be an artist. It’s a very hard thing to quantify but it’s entirely necessary.”
The award began in 2018 and seeks to support a British artist annually by displaying unique paintings.
They are normally given 15 editions of the print to put on display in the State buildings, and from this, 11 paintings are sold to help raise funds for the collection to support upcoming artists in the United Kingdom.
Born and bred in Nairobi in the 1990s, Armitage is known for his mark in the art world, with a collection of paintings in various museums globally.
His journey began at the age of nine years when he encountered a masterpiece at a friend’s house in Nairobi. At the time, his friend, Gichugu, invited Armitage to his first exhibition at Gallery Watatu, showcasing 110 paintings.
Through this, he developed a passion for painting as he pursued the course at university, graduating with a Bachelor of Art from the Slade School of Art in 2007. He later graduated with a Master of Art at the Royal Academy in 2010.
He is renowned for painting an art titled The Conservationists, which was sold for over Ksh150 million at Sotheby’s in 2019. He was also selected to design the new British pound to enter circulation in early 2024.
The fourth Estate Painting by Michael Armitage (Source: frieze.com).