Lubaina Himid

Don Giovanni (2023) A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2023) The Rake’s Progress (2023)

Acrylic on canvas, each 102 x 145 cm

Turner Prize-winning British artist, Lubaina Himid CBE RA, will present a solo exhibition at Glyndebourne Festival 2023 this summer.

What Does Love Sound Like? features a series of large-scale paintings and objects in response to the operas being performed at the prestigious festival this summer – they include Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites and Handel’s Semele. 

Born in Zanzibar in 1954, Lubaina Himid has garnered international recognition for her artistic and curatorial practice. Her works uncover marginalised and silenced histories while addressing the complexity of experience through depictions of action, exchange, desire and transformation. A leading figure in the Black Arts Movement of the 1980s, her work continues to tackle social and political issues, whilst engaging deeply with the art historical canon. Spanning painting, drawing, installation and printmaking, Himid’s works are characterised by their bold colour, use of pattern, sensory subject matter and performative elements.  

Himid trained in theatre design at Wimbledon College of Art and her love of opera has informed her practice for the last 40 years. In a recent conversation with Nerissa Taysom, Curator of Exhibitions & Collections at Glyndebourne, Himid said, ‘My work is all to do with action and something unfolding. Like in opera, the narratives in my works are not static. Opera, for me, is extraordinarily real. I love it because it’s the way I experience life.’ 

The exhibition at Glyndebourne (Himid’s first at an opera house) explores the multi-layered forms of opera and its sensory pleasures. In these works, Himid draws on her private memories of listening to opera with her stepfather together with experience of seeing live opera. In her own words: ‘When I began the paintings for Glyndebourne, I saw it as a chance to experience an expanded version of my everyday activity… On the canvases you can find delicate hands, straining penises, disconnected hearts, floating brains, severed necks and pursed lips. I thought about the immense, multi-coloured sounds and at the same time the broken, seductive, powerful and sometimes hilarious human bodies and embarked on the next stage of my adventure to find out what love actually sounds like’. 

Himid has exhibited extensively in the UK and internationally. Significant solo exhibitions include: So Many Dreams, Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne/Platforme 10, Switzerland (2022); Water Has a Perfect Memory, Hollybush Gardens, London (2022); Lubaina Himid, Tate Modern, London (2021); Spotlights, Tate Britain, London (2019); The Grab Test, Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem, The Netherlands (2019); Lubaina Himid, CAPC Bordeaux, France (2019); Work From Underneath, New Museum, New York (2019); Gifts to Kings, MRAC Languedoc Roussillon Midi-Pyrénées, Sérignan (2018); Our Kisses are Petals, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead (2018); The Truth Is Never Watertight, Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe (2017); Navigation Charts, Spike Island, Bristol (2017); and Invisible Strategies, Modern Art Oxford (2017).

Himid is Emeritus Professor of Contemporary Art at the University of Central Lancashire. In 2017, she became the first Black woman to win the Turner Prize and was elected to the Royal Academy of Arts the following year.

What Does Love Sound Like? is an exhibition in two parts taking place in Glyndebourne’s Gallery 94 and Old Green Room. The work in Gallery 94 is available to view by all ticket-holders to the 2023 Glyndebourne Festival between 19 May and 27 August. The Old Green Room part of the exhibition can be viewed by appointment. The whole exhibition will also be open to visitors to two Family Open Days at Glyndebourne in September.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a new publication with texts by Lubaina Himid and Griselda Pollock. 

Glyndebourne are grateful to Hollybush Gardens for their generous support with this exhibition.