On 19 March 2015 British artist Richard Long was awarded the Whitechapel Gallery Art Icon at a gala dinner supported by the Swarovski Foundation at Banking Hall in the City of London. Surrounded by artists and art world luminaries, Long was presented the award on the night by Edmund de Waal, honouring the lifetime achievement of one of our greatest artists.

A recent large-scale clay diptych, photography and text works were installed between the pillars of the hall, which – alongside a publication specially produced with the artist for the occasion – showed works from every decade of Long’s prolific career from the 1960s to the present day.

Iwona Blazwick OBE, former Director of the Whitechapel Gallery, and Nadja Swarovski, Chairperson of the Swarovski Foundation, welcomed the 150 guests to the evening in honour of the artist. Representing the panel of experts who chose Richard Long as the Whitechapel Gallery Art Icon 2015, Director of The Art Fund Stephen Deuchar read a citation in praise of his pioneering work as an artist who has transformed sculpture, performance and photography. Writer and artist Edmund de Waal personally presented the award, specially made by Swarovski and designed in collaboration with the Whitechapel Gallery.

Guests included artists Michael Craig-Martin, Hamish Fulton, Antony Gormley,Michael Landy, Heather Phillipson, Bob and Roberta Smith, Gillian Wearing, Sue Webster, Rachel Whiteread and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye alongside Richard Long’s friends and supporters including Alan Cristea (Gallerist), Ann Gallagher (Curator and Head of Collections at Tate), Nicholas Logsdail (Gallerist), Farshid Moussavi (Architect), Maureen Paley (Gallerist), Colin Renfrew (Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn), David Rocksavage (David Cholmondeley, 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley), Alex Sainsbury (Chair of the Board of Trustees, Whitechapel Gallery), Victoria Siddall (Director, Frieze Fairs), Lydia Yee (Curator, Whitechapel Gallery) and many more.

Guests bought tickets for the evening to help raise £163,555 for the Whitechapel Gallery’s Education and Community programmes. An auction led by Oliver Barker of Sotheby’s and introduced by Alex Sainsbury featured work donated by leading artists in homage to Long, including Matthew Darbyshire’s glittering gold leaf bollard, Long’s friend and contemporary Hamish Fulton’s work reminiscing on a 1960s performance by the artist, and Michael Rakowitz’s reinterpretation of Long’s iconic A Line Made by Walking with A Line Made from Looting. Artists included: Francis Alÿs, Broomberg & Chanarin, Matthew Darbyshire, Michael Dean, Hamish Fulton, Georg Herold, Jannis Kounellis, Heather Phillipson, Paola Pivi, Michael Rakowitz, Wilhelm Sasnal, Adrián Villar Rojas and Jesse Wine.

The evening glowed with Swarovski lanterns, while guests enjoyed a feasting menu of fish carpaccio, seared tuna and sea bass followed by roasted breast of guinea fowl and winter berry Eton mess, created by chef Alan Lucas of Banking Hall.

The Whitechapel Gallery Art Icon award was given to Richard Long for his presence as a central figure in contemporary art for over half a century. Richard Long makes sculptures, photographs and text works documenting his journeys around the world, from long walks across Dartmoor in south Devon, England to the icy peaks of the Ellsworth Mountains in Antarctica.  He has been in the vanguard of conceptual art in Britain since he created A Line Made by Walking in 1967, while still a student. This photograph of the path left by his feet in the grass, a fixed line of movement, established a precedent that art could be a journey. The artist was chosen by a panel of experts chaired by Iwona Blazwick: Stephen Deuchar, Director, The Art Fund; Ann Gallagher, Head of Collections (British Art), Tate; and, Jackie Wullschlager, Chief Art Critic, The Financial Times. The initiative is generously supported by the Swarovski Foundation, whose commitment to the arts and to nurturing creative talent in art and design has a long established heritage.

Former Whitechapel Gallery Director Iwona Blazwick OBE said, ‘The bracing clarity and imaginative power of Richard Long’s linguistic, material and visual aesthetic is second to none. He is a true revolutionary, transforming art by fusing together performance, landscape, language and photography. The Whitechapel Gallery Art Icon – our art Oscar – supported by the Swarovski Foundation, not only celebrates the lifetime achievement of an important artist, but also enables us to raise the funds to nurture the next generation of artists through our education and community programme.’

Nadja Swarovski, Chairperson of the Swarovski Foundation said, ‘Richard Long is a true icon of British art who has been at the vanguard of landscape and conceptual art for almost fifty years, and this award is a tribute to a powerful and inspiring body of work. The Swarovski Foundation is honoured to partner with the Whitechapel Gallery to support its Art Icon prize as part of its mission to foster creativity and culture. Like the Whitechapel Gallery, the Swarovski Foundation believes that art has the power to transform the lives of young people, and this gala evening raises vital funds for the gallery’s inspirational education programmes across art, design and culture.’


Notes to Editors 

Richard Long

  • Richard Long was born in Bristol, UK in 1945, where he continues to live and work. He studied at the West of England College of Art, Bristol (1962–65), then St Martin’s School of Art, London (1966–68). Richard Long’s critically acclaimed first major UK solo exhibition took place at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1971. Including Pine Needles (1971), a huge diagonal cross of pine needles spreading across the main gallery and A Straight Walk from the Bottom to the Top of Silbury Hill (1970), a chalky spiral of boot prints representing the distance described in the title, the exhibition caused shockwaves when it was unveiled to the British public. A second exhibition in 1977 titled The North Woods, under the early directorship of Nicholas Serota, included sculptures and photographs of his recent projects. Major solo exhibitions include Tate Britain, London (2009), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2006), National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto (1996), Philadelphia Museum of Art (1994), Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (1986) and The Hayward Gallery, London (1985). Long represented Britain at the 37th Venice Biennale (1976) and won the Turner Prize in 1989 after being shortlisted four times. He was awarded Japan’s Praemium Imperiale in the field of sculpture (2009) and was made a CBE in 2013.


Whitechapel Gallery

  • For over a century the Whitechapel Gallery has premiered world-class artists from modern masters such asPablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Frida Kahlo to contemporaries such as Sophie Calle, Lucian Freud, Gilbert & George and Mark Wallinger. With beautiful galleries, exhibitions, artist commissions, collection displays, historic archives, education resources, inspiring art courses, dining room and bookshop, the Gallery is open all year round, so there is always something free to see. The Gallery is a touchstone for contemporary art internationally, plays a central role in London’s cultural landscape and is pivotal to the continued growth of the world’s most vibrant contemporary art quarter.
  • The winner of the inaugural Whitechapel Gallery Art Icon in 2014 was British artist Sir Howard Hodgkin.
  • The Whitechapel Gallery believes that art has the power to transform the lives of children and young people, and pioneered gallery education and community outreach. Working with thousands of children and young people annually, leading artists collaborate with those who have the greatest need for opportunity, with their art celebrated in dedicated public education galleries.


The Swarovski Foundation

  • The Swarovski Foundation was incorporated in 2013 to pursue charitable goals to honour the philanthropic spirit of Daniel Swarovski, who founded the crystal business in 1895. Since then, five generations of the Swarovski family have reinforced the company’s commitment to philanthropy and charitable giving. The Foundation’s mission is to build on this heritage by supporting charitable initiatives and organizations working in three areas. Fostering Creativity and Culture by promoting the arts, advancing education, supporting cultural institutions and innovative projects with cutting edge talent; Promoting Wellbeing, supporting initiatives on women’s empowerment, access to health and education and assisting the advancement and development of young people and communities; and Conserving Natural Resources through water sustainability and environmental projects to promote the conservation, protection and improvement of the physical and natural environment.
  • In addition to the Whitechapel Gallery Art Icon event, the Foundation generously supports the Swarovski Foundation Curator: Youth & Community Programmes post at the Whitechapel Gallery. Open to people aged 15 – 21 the youth programme gives young adults the chance to explore contemporary art, meet creative professionals, and open up career paths into the sector. The programme is formed around collaborative artist-led projects, events and a dedicated peer-led youth forum. www.swarovskifoundation.org

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