British Filmmaker and Installation Artist, Isaac Julien, to be Honoured on 18 March 2024

18 March 2024

Whitechapel Gallery is delighted to announce the eleventh recipient of its prestigious Art Icon Award as the visionary filmmaker and artist, Isaac Julien KBE RA. The award, which celebrates the work of an artist who has made a profound contribution to a generation of artists, will be presented to Julien at a gala celebration hosted by Whitechapel Gallery Director, Gilane Tawadros on 18 March 2024.

Isaac Julien (b.1960, London) is widely regarded as one of our leading visual artists, celebrated for his impressionistic, sensual films and ambitious video installations.  His work moves fluently – and purposefully – between a range of artistic disciplines, including film, dance, photography, music, theatre and sculpture, breaking down barriers to create multi-layered visual narratives that address and explore themes of desire, history and culture as well as investigate the movement of peoples across different continents, times and spaces.

Julien came to wide, critical and cult attention for his 1989 film, Looking for Langston, a poetic exploration of the private world of author, poet and playwright, Langston Hughes (1901-1967), who, alongside, his fellow black artists and writers formed the Harlem Renaissance during the 1920s.  His debut feature film, Young Souls Rebels (1991) won the Semaine de la Critique prize at the Cannes Film Festival.  In 2022 Julien was awarded a knighthood as well as being the recipient of the prestigious Goslar Kaiserring Award.   His most recent work, the stunning large-scale installation, Once Again . . . (Statues Never Die) (2022), had a UK premiere at Tate Britain as part of Julien’s major 2023 retrospective. Lessons of the Hour (2019), his exquisite ten-screen meditation on the life of visionary 19th-century African American writer and abolitionist Frederick Douglass, will be shown at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in May 2024.

Of the announcement, Tawadros commented:

“It’s an honour to announce Isaac Julien as our 2024 Art Icon.  His ground-breaking, visually compelling film and video works, alongside his elaborate multi-screen installations, have defined new and important territories for artists and filmmakers, and changed the way that audiences view and experience moving image work – both within and outside art spaces.

His work offers a uniquely seductive yet critical lens to explore and interrogate historical and contemporary experiences and he is rightfully acknowledged to be one of the most influential artists of his generation.  I couldn’t be more delighted to be presenting him with this year’s award on behalf of Whitechapel Gallery and the 2024 Art Icon committee.”

The evening celebrations will include a special guest performance from the legendary Soul, R&B and Jazz singer, Mica Paris MBE.   Paris performed the title track of Julien’s 1991 award-winning feature film, Young Soul Rebels.

There will also be an online auction of artworks donated by leading contemporary artists hosted by Phillips. All funds raised will support Whitechapel Gallery’s Education and Public Programmes, in particular, a dedicated series of activities designed to increase access to and engagement with, arts and creativity for children and young people.

The Art Icon committee for 2024 comprised Dorota Audemars, Erin Bell, Émilie de Pauw, Charlotte Gibbs, Dame Vivian Hunt & Nicholas Basden, Victoria Miro, Bimpe Nkontchou, Ebele Okobi, Gemma Rolls-Bentley and Darren Walker.


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Notes for Editors

The Whitechapel Gallery Art Icon Award was established in 2014 and celebrates the work of an artist who has made a profound contribution to a particular medium, influencing their own and subsequent generations of artists.

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