The Liverpool School of Art and Design has welcomed a new lecturer to its ranks – art critic, historian, and curator Christine Eyene.
As well as taking up a new post here at LJMU, she will also play an important role in deciding the winner of one of the best-known prizes for visual art, the Turner Prize 2022, as she has been selected to sit on this year’s jury.
We caught up with Christine to discover what she hopes to bring to her new lecturing position and how she feels to be involved in such an iconic, global art prize.
Welcome to LJMU Christine, can you tell us about the role you are taking up within the School of Art and Design and what you’re most looking forward to?
Thank you. I just joined LJMU’s School of Art and Design as Lecturer in Contemporary Art with the embedded role of Research Curator at Tate Liverpool. I am looking forward to engaging with the current curriculum and contributing both my knowledge as an art historian specialised in contemporary African and Diaspora arts, and my experience as an internationally established curator.
My post reflects LJMU’s (and Tate Liverpool’s) ambition to decolonising the arts institution. So, I am keen to develop a programme that will open our students to culturally diverse creative practices that are often overlooked despite often being at the forefront of creative innovations and new conversations in the arts. I am also interested in how as an educational institution we can create bridges between our students and the professional art world.
Can you tell us a little about your background and how you came into the world of art?
I am originally from Paris where, as a teenager and through my eldest sister, I first came into contact with pioneering South African artists who had left their country because of Apartheid. These exiled artists made me understand the role art can play in raising important questions about society, challenging different forms of marginalisation, and allowing individuals – especially from disenfranchised communities – to project themselves in the imaginary of a more equal society. And not just imagine it but make it a reality.
In the late 1990s I earned an MPhil in History of Art at Université Paris 1, Panthéon-Sorbonne where I specialised in South African modern and contemporary art with a focus on socio-realism, and subsequently, representations of the body in South African visual arts. I have been inspired by the anti-apartheid and anti-colonial movements and their manifestations in visual culture. When I came to England twenty years ago, I found many echoes between my research on South African art and Black British creative voices.
I have always been interested in research, so I dived into this wealth of knowledge and scholarship that was new to me. I got acquainted with the history of 1980s Black Art in Britain, Post-colonial, and Cultural Studies, as well as Black feminism, through the archive of the Africa Centre in Covent Garden where I worked part-time for the first two years, and also at the Institute of International Visual Arts’ Library which was my ‘second home’ for many years.
It is then that I got to know about the work of artists who are celebrated today, like Sonia Boyce OBE RA who recently won the Golden Lion for Best National Participation at the Venice Biennale, or Lubaina Himid CBE RA who won the Turner Prize 2017 and with whom I worked for nearly ten years in my previous position at the University of Central Lancashire. These artists are among the pioneering figures who have also been influential in the development of my curatorial practice.
The Turner Prize 2022 shortlist was announced in Liverpool last month, with the work of the four artists to go on display at the Tate Liverpool in October. The winner will be crowned in December, and you’ve been chosen to sit on the jury to decide this year’s victor. What does this role entail and what does it mean to you to be selected for the panel?
As Turner Prize jury members, we were tasked to travel the country in order to shortlist four British artists featured in an outstanding exhibition or having their work showcased in a significant presentation in the twelve months preceding the nomination.
The Turner Prize is one of the world’s best-known prizes for the visual arts. It is a major acknowledgment in an artist’s career so of course one feels a sense of responsibility. Being selected for the panel also means having the opportunity to actively engage in public debates around new developments in contemporary British art, both with fellow jurors, and also with the British and international audiences who will visit the exhibition at the end of the year.
What opportunities does the Turner Prize returning to Liverpool offer to current and prospective art students here at LJMU?
This year marks the Turner Prize’s return to Liverpool for the first time in 15 years. It is a historical moment that our students will be able to witness within our local environment. This major exhibition will give them the chance to be exposed to some of the most exciting art practices in the country. It will also be accessible to all for free. This will give our students the possibility to visit it on several occasions and come back to some of the works that might trigger new questions either in terms of theme, concept, aesthetics, creative process, or exhibition display. I do hope that it will be a source of inspiration that will feed into their research and artistic experiments, and maybe open up new reflections and creative avenues.
The Turner prize 2022 nominees’ work will be at Tate Liverpool, from 20 October 2022 to 19 March 2023, with the winner announced in December 2022 at a ceremony in Liverpool. Find out more on the Tate website.