This is a post that I originally wrote for WITP art in March 2016
At a time when the phrase ‘migrant crisis’ forms part of our everyday dialogue, it makes sense to take a look at migration’s more positive aspects. Many of the UK’s top contemporary creatives are themselves migrants or come from migrant backgrounds. Here are five to celebrate for starters…
Dame Zaha Hadid (Architect)
Born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1950, award-winning architect Zaha Hadid first came to the UK as a student. Now a naturalised British citizen, her firm is responsible for high-profile buildings including the London Aquatics Centre, built for the 2012 Olympics and the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in Hyde Park.
Sir Anish Kapoor (Sculptor)
Born in Bombay, India in 1954, Kapoor has lived and worked in London since the early 1970s when he moved to study art at the Chelsea School of Art and Design. His work has won him the Turner Prize (2002) and seen him represent Britain at the Venice Biennale (1990.) Kapoor was the artist commissioned to create a sculptor for London’s 2012 Olympic park. In 2013 he received a knighthood. In 2015 he joined artist Ai Weiwei in an eight-mile walk across London to show solidarity for refugees across the world.
Oscar Murillo (Painter)
Born in La Paila, Colombia in 1986, Murillo and his parents moved to London when he was 10. He graduated with an MA from The Royal College of Art, London in 2012 and his bold paintings have since seen him rocket to fame. More than just an art world darling, Murillo’s work candidly confronts the negative effects of globalisation.
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye (Painter)
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s parents were both originally from Ghana and worked as nurses for the NHS. Boakye graduated from Falmouth College of Arts in 2000, then completed an MA at the Royal Academy Schools in 2003. Afigurative painter, her bold use of colour and raw style set her apart. Her ability to evoke an intimacy amongst the rough is unique and has seen her nominated for the Turner Prize and gain interest from the likes of Charles Saatchi. Following her show at the Serpentine last summer, she is currently one of the UK’s most in-demand young painters.
Frank Auerbach (Painter)
With an extensive retrospective currently on at Tate Britain it is impossible to deny Auerbach’s influence on British art. Auerbach is by all means a ‘British artist’, his paintings of Camden Town depict significant eras in London’s geographical and social history and are in many ways unrivalled. Auerbach however was born in Germany and naturalised as a British citizen in 1947. Had the UK not offered him a home at this time then British culture would have suffered a considerable loss.