Robson Orr TenTen Award 2019

A Government Art Collection/Outset Annual Commission

Leading British artist Tacita Dean has been awarded the Robson Orr TenTen Award 2019 by the Government Art Collection (GAC). The new work was unveiled at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on Friday 27 September 2019 by Sir Simon McDonald, Permanent Under-Secretary for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and Head of HM Diplomatic Service, and Penny Johnson, Director of the GAC. The Robson Orr TenTen Award is presented jointly by the Government Art Collection with Outset Contemporary Art Fund and is sponsored by leading philanthropists Sybil Robson Orr and Matthew Orr.

Every year a British artist is commissioned to create a unique, limited edition print to be shown in diplomatic buildings across the world. A small number are available for purchase through a collaboration with the pioneering philanthropic arts organisation Outset to raise funds for the GAC acquisition fund. The 10-year scheme was launched last year with the inaugural award given to the artist Hurvin Anderson.

A self-declared collector of clouds, Tacita Dean’s Foreign Policy (screenprint edition) for the 2019 TenTen print commission reflects an ongoing series of works and a very specific moment in time. The screenprint is an interpretation of a similarly titled large-scale work drawn in chalk on blackboard from 2016, currently on loan by the artist to Sir Simon McDonald, Permanent Under-Secretary for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and Head of HM Diplomatic Service.

Tacita Dean and Sir Simon McDonald sitting in his office

The unveiling on the right of Foreign Policy (screenprint edition) in Sir Simon McDonald’s office, seen in front of the similarly titled large-scale work drawn in chalk on blackboard. © Crown Copyright

Dean’s cloud collection began in 2014 following her move from Berlin to Los Angeles, where she describes a seminal encounter with a ‘voluminous atomic cloud blooming’ across Sunset Boulevard ‘on pure azure without transitional haze nor other, lesser clouds for company’. Since declaring California as ‘the place for clouds’, the artist has drawn them in chalk on blackboards and spray chalk on slates, ‘found them on postcards, painted round them, photographed and printed them’.

Foreign Policy, 2016, which was drawn specifically with its destination in the Foreign Office in mind, simultaneously evokes the challenge of capturing the mutability of clouds and an epoch of unprecedented global change and uncertainty. The title shifts the subject of a cloud, whose ‘identity’ is challenging to capture, to a thought provoking reflection on global relations. The cloud, whose symbolism gives us both dark warnings and silver linings, is universal and yet defined and shaped by its environment.

Known foremost for her work in film and commitment to preserving this medium for the future, Tacita Dean’s multidisciplinary practice encompasses drawing, painting and photography. The year 2018 cemented Dean’s reputation as one of the UK’s foremost artists to have emerged in the 1990s, as the National Portrait Gallery, Royal Academy and The National Gallery collaborated to present LANDSCAPE, PORTRAIT, STILL LIFE, three separate exhibitions dedicated to the different genres in her oeuvre. Dean was a nominee for the Turner Prize in 1998, won the Hugo Boss Prize in 2006, and was elected to the Royal Academy of Arts in 2008. Dean was artist in residence at the Getty Research Institute 2014-2015 and lives and works between Los Angeles, Berlin and the UK.

We were inspired to create the TenTen Commission having seen the success of FAPE (Foundation for Arts and Preservation in Embassies) in the USA.

The TenTen Commission recognises important British artists and ensures their work is represented in the Government Art Collection (GAC) and in UK embassies around the world. Over the next ten years, ten artists will be commissioned to create a print. The artists are selected by the GAC and its Advisory Committee in conversation with Outset.

We have initiated this exciting ten year project with the guidance and support of the GAC and Outset Contemporary Art Fund. The Government Art Collection is an important public institution that deserves to have a light shone on its fascinating work and collection.

Sybil Robson Orr and Matthew Orr