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. 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 from 2016, drawn in chalk on blackboard, which is currently on loan by the artist to Sir Simon McDonald, Permanent Under-Secretary for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and Head of HM Diplomatic Service.

Every year a British artist is commissioned, through this award, 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 Government Art Collection acquisition fund. The 10-year scheme was launched in 2018 with the inaugural award given to the artist Hurvin Anderson. The artists are selected by the Government Art Collection and its advisory committee, in collaboration with Outset.

The new work by Dean was unveiled at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on 27 September 2019 by Sir Simon McDonald and Penny Johnson, Director of the Government Art Collection. 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.


Tacita Dean and Sir Simon McDonald sitting in his office

Tacita Dean talks about her work Foreign Policy (screenprint edition), after it is unveiled (on the right) in Sir Simon McDonald’s office. The similarly titled large-scale work drawn in chalk on blackboard, can be seen on the wall behind the artist © 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, evokes simultaneously, 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 her commitment to preserving this medium for the future, Tacita Dean’s multidisciplinary practice encompasses drawing, painting and photography. Dean’s reputation as one of the UK’s foremost artists to have emerged in the 1990s, was underlined in 2018 when the National Portrait Gallery, the 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. She won the Hugo Boss Prize in 2006, was elected to the Royal Academy of Arts in 2008, and was artist in residence at the Getty Research Institute between 2014-2015. Dean lives and works between Los Angeles, Berlin and the UK.

We were inspired to create the TenTen Commission having seen the success of the  Foundation for Arts and Preservation in Embassies (FAPE) in the USA. The Commission recognises important British artists and ensures their work is represented in the Government Art Collection and in UK embassies around the world.

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