British artist Howard Hodgkin is announced today as the first artist to be given the Swarovski Whitechapel Gallery Art Icon. It aims to honour the lifetime achievement of one of our greatest artists.

Howard Hodgkin will be presented with the award at a spectacular gala dinner hosted by former Whitechapel Gallery Director Iwona Blazwick OBE and Nadja Swarovski, Member of the Swarovski Executive Board, on 2 April 2014.

The Swarovski Whitechapel Gallery Art Icon is to be given to Howard Hodgkin for his presence as a central figure in contemporary art for over half a century. His poetic paintings are studies of form and colour with nature as their theme. He has also been a pioneer of print making, combining hand painting with etching and aquatint to create a remarkable body of works on paper. Hodgkin is an inspiration to and influence on successive generations of artists.

Born in London in 1932, Hodgkin has been exhibiting internationally since the 1960s. He had his first major solo survey at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1985 and was awarded the Turner Prize in the same year. He has had numerous major retrospectives including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York in 1995 and Tate Britain, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin and the Reina Sofia, Madrid in 2006 and Modern Art Oxford in 2010, and was knighted for services to the arts in 1992.

The artist was chosen by a panel of art 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.

Guests are invited to buy tickets for the evening and take part in a charity auction to help raise funds for the Whitechapel Gallery’s Education and Community programmes which works with 15,000 children and young people each year. The auction features works by young emerging artists and will be auctioned by Tom Best of Christie’s on the night.

This new initiative is generously supported by Swarovski, 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, ‘Observations of a lover’s face or a city at night, of a blade of grass or a horizon are distilled into a lyrical alphabet of abstraction in Howard Hodgkin’s modestly scaled but visually arresting paintings and prints. We are immensely proud to honour Howard Hodgkin with the very first Swarovski Whitechapel Gallery Art Icon – our art Oscar.  From his first solo show at the Whitechapel Gallery to his latest paintings with jewel-like colours he is a powerhouse in British art and a reference point for artists worldwide.’

Nadja Swarovski, Member of the Swarovski Executive Board said, ‘Swarovski has a proud tradition of supporting and celebrating artists across the creative spectrum and so we are delighted to continue our partnership with the Whitechapel Gallery in honouring the life’s work of Howard Hodgkin, a unique talent and a true icon in the visual arts.’


Notes for Editors

Born in London in 1932, Hodgkin studied at Camberwell Art School and the Bath Academy of Art in Corsham and began exhibiting internationally in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1984 Hodgkin represented Britain at the Venice Biennale and had his first major solo survey at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1985. He was awarded the Turner Prize in the same year. Having served as a trustee of the Tate and the National Gallery in London, he was knighted for services to the arts in 1992.  Hodgkin lives and works in London.

For over a century the Whitechapel Gallery has premiered world-class artists from modern masters such as Pablo 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 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.

Swarovski has been the world’s leading producer of precision-cut crystal and gemstones since its foundation in 1895. The company now operates nearly 2,000 retail outlets in over 120 countries. The company has a rich history of working with internationally acclaimed designers including Coco Chanel, Balenciaga, Yves Saint Laurent and Christian Dior. Since joining the family business in 1995, Nadja Swarovski has built on this heritage by implementing a series of visionary design initiatives which have transformed the company’s image, turning crystal into a much desired component in the creative industries. Nadja Swarovski is committed to supporting and celebrating design and the arts by collaborating with both established and emerging designers – including Karl Lagerfeld, Christian Lacroix, Shaun Leane, Tom Dixon, John Pawson, Zaha Hadid, Alexander McQueen, Viktor and Rolf and Mary Katrantzou – challenging them to push the boundaries of crystal use across fashion, jewellery, stage and screen, art, architecture and design.

With thanks to Title Sponsor: Swarovski. With support from Firefly tonics.

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