Freelands Foundation announced The Hepworth Wakefield as the fourth recipient of the annual £100,000 Freelands Award. The Yorkshire based institution will be working with the Foundation to present a major survey exhibition of Hannah Starkey (b. Belfast, 1971) in 2020, which will also see the artist work closely with teenage girls from local communities to create a major new body of work. Award 2019 Press Release 4 December 2019 The Freelands Award was established in 2016 by Freelands Foundation, chaired by Elisabeth Murdoch, to enable a regional arts organisation to present a large-scale exhibition, including a significant new work, by a mid-career female artist who may not have yet received the acclaim or public recognition that her work deserves. The total value of the award is £100,000, including an artist fee of £25,000. Starkey’s forthcoming exhibition at The Hepworth Wakefield, running from 23 October 2020 to 24 January 2021, will be her first ever major solo institutional exhibition, presenting a survey of Starkey’s art at a critical time in her career.
In addition, Starkey will create a new body of work exploring the shifting female identities within communities that were once strongly defined by coal mining and industrial manufacturing. The Hepworth Wakefield is a museum that specialises in commissioning and presenting contemporary female artists in dialogue with 20th-century modernism. The Hepworth is therefore particularly well placed to present Starkey’s work to a wide audience and enrich the experience of it through the gallery’s art historical and geographic context. Simon Wallis, Director of The Hepworth Wakefield, said: ‘We are delighted and honoured to have won the Freelands Award 2019 with photographer Hannah Starkey. Awards of this size are rare, and so important in such an uncertain and challenging financial climate. It will allow us to present the first major survey of work by Starkey and to engage our diverse audience with a significant new commission to be created in Wakefield. Starkey’s emotionally evocative body of work created over the last twenty years, subtly explores how women are represented in contemporary culture and, more recently, their increasingly effective and powerful political activism that is fruitfully changing society and its entrenched attitudes. This long overdue survey of Starkey’s work builds on The Hepworth’s reputation for curating important exhibitions of photographs and extends our commitment to regularly showing work by major female artists.This project comes at an exciting moment when Starkey is reassessing her art in the light of recent political events, such as the MeToo movement, that have such a vital bearing on her new work.’
Elisabeth Murdoch, Founder and Chair of Freelands Foundation said:‘The Foundation and I are very excited to work with The Hepworth Wakefield on this timely exhibition of Hannah Starkey’s work. The judging panel concurred that the project presented by the museum and the artist tackles prescient and important current issues, such as education and youth identity. Starkey’s photography brings into focus the complex ways in which female representation and subjectivity play out in contemporary society. The upcoming exhibition presents a fantastic opportunity for both local and international audiences to delve deep into her practice; and the new collaborative project will allow Hannah to create impactful new work that is inextricably tied to the local communities.’ Living and working in London, Starkey explores the physical and psychological connections between the female individual and her everyday urban surroundings. Though her photographs can initially appear to be in the vein of observational documentary, they are in fact deftly choreographed.
Often, she reimagines her observations from public environments, using actors to re-enact moments of reverie,togetherness,or fleeting interactions. Throughout her career, Starkey’s focus has evolved inline with shifts in the political climate and her own life. In her most recent work – which includes images of the Women’s March in London in 2017, and as yet unshown images of the Extinction Rebellion protests and climate change strikes by school children – she explores how to represent a new generation of women at a time when the issues she has been addressing through out her career are finally centre-stage. Now in her mid-forties and having recently published a monograph detailing the past two decades of her work, this exhibition at The Hepworth Wakefield represents a moment of reassessment for Starkey. She is interested in moving beyond the production of images that quietly but insistently interrogate the subject of women’s representation to something that enters into a more direct dialogue with the world itself, one in which women are agents as well as spectators.The project at The HepworthWakefieldwill allow Starkey to explore some of the issues facing young women today.
Previous iterations of the Freelands Award have supported Jacqueline Donachieat the Fruitmarket Gallery;Lis Rhodes at Nottingham Contemporary; and Veronica Ryan at Spike Island. The selection panel for the 2019 Award was as follows: Elisabeth Murdoch (Chair); Jenni Lomax, Curator and former Director of CamdenArts Centre; Martin Clark, Director, CamdenArts Centre; Juliana Engberg, Curator and Writer; and Alison Wilding, Artist. The short list of organisations for this year’s award comprised: First site, Colchester; John Hansard Gallery, Southampton; The MAC, Belfast; MK Gallery, Milton Keynes; Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne; and The Hepworth Wakefield.