Lubaina Himid - Modern & Contemporary Art: Evening & Day Sale London Thursday, June 27, 2024 | Phillips
  • “It’s important for me to draw people towards the work with colour, with wit and […] a sense of come in, come in, let’s have this conversation let’s exchange ideas, let’s exchange experiences.”
    —Lubaina Himid

    A vivid mise-en-scène, bright with accents of orange, purple and yellow, Lubaina Himid's The Bird Seller: Are You Listening exemplifies the artist's reputation as a painter of history as much as the everyday. Himid’s life affirming practice champions the social engagement of art, centralising Black figures, history, and experiences. Highly enigmatic, Himid's compositions are carefully constructed, generating open-ended dialogues between her protagonists that invite the viewer's active participation, an inclusive approach fully realised in The Bird Seller: Are You Listening - the first work on canvas by the Turner-prize winning artist to have ever been offered at auction. 



    Painting prolifically for forty years while teaching full-time as a professor of Fine Arts at the University of Lancashire, throughout her career Himid has worked ceaselessly to celebrate Black artists. A leading member of the British Black arts movement during the 1980s, Himid collaborated with a diverse group of young artists like Claudette Johnson, Sonia Boyce, and Keith Piper, among others. Often exhibiting outside traditional institutions, Himid emphasises that ‘we were making work in a particular way where we didn’t have to explain our identities’, allowing the collective to explore issues of race, gender, and the legacy of colonialism.i

    “There are these details that are painstakingly caressed and nurtured – that are crafted into being.”
    —Lubaina Himid
    From the outset of her career, Himid’s work consistently painted the Black figure ‘back into […] history’, valorising the previously marginalised and denigrated voices not represented by the art establishment.ii The historic exclusion of the Black individual from the cultural landscape is reconsidered by Himid, becoming the central protagonists of her painting on a luminous, heroic scale as in The Bird Seller: Are You Listening. 

    The Theatre of Painting


    In retelling Black experiences, Himid is especially attuned to the process and dramatic effect of painting. Studying theatre design at Wimbledon College of Art during the 1970s, Himid learned to communicate atmosphere and nuance in the patterns of daily life through stage craft. Combining looser, broader movements of the brush to evoke the dabbled green shadow on the ground flanked by balustrades, Himid delicately illuminates each of the figures’ attributes with finer strokes. Mismatched shoes, the lattice of the bird cage or the purple mandarin collared jacket, buttons undone at the bottom, all are finely ‘crafted into being’ by Himid here.


    Located in a serene, seemingly coastal environment, standing adjacent and held in conversation, Himid creates intrigue through her casting of character and setting, deliberately creating works that exist in ‘the moment between a question and an answer’.iii It is within these uncertainties that Himid commences a metaphysical dialogue between herself and the viewer. In the words of Michael Wellen, when conceiving her largest exhibition to date at the Tate Modern, London, Himid hoped that visitors would be inspired ‘to take an action, to make step – no matter how seemingly small’.iv Inviting viewers to question the relationship between the two men, their role in the world, and to take note of their expressive, opulent attire, Himid reveals the ways in which inspiring, grander notions of the poetic and theatrical can be found in small, everyday moments: a realm in which everyone is included. As the artist explains, 'I often refer to the men in these works as pastry chefs. This is to imply that they have worked all day to make something exquisite which someone else will admire and eat. The moment of the painting is at the end of the day, the moment of ‘in between’: the liminal time/space which could later be described as between now and then, today and tomorrow or a state of being alone and being together.’v


    Collector’s Digest


    • The first Black woman to win the Turner Prize in 2017, Lubaina Himid has dedicated her career to uncovering silenced histories, figures and cultural moments.

    • Decorated as a Royal Academician and a CBE in 2018, Himid was awarded this year the celebrated Suzanne Deal Booth / FLAG Art Foundation Prize with an accompanying exhibition at The Contemporary Austin, Texas.

    • Himid’s work is held in various significant museum and public collections, including, among many others, the Tate, London; the Victoria and Albert Museum, London and the Museum Ludwig, Cologne.



    i Lubaina Himid, quoted in Neil Price, ‘Lubaina Himid on ‘Thinking, Feeling, and Holding Back’’, Ocula Magazine, 10 April 2024, online.

    ii Lubaina Himid, quoted in Neil Price, ‘Lubaina Himid on ‘Thinking, Feeling, and Holding Back’’, Ocula Magazine, 10 April 2024, online.

    iii Lubaina Himid, quoted in Dr. Omar Kholeif, ‘Lubaina Himid with Dr. Omar Kholeif’, The Brooklyn Rail, May 2024, online.

    iv Michael Wellen, ‘Introduction’, Lubaina Himid, exh. cat., London, 2021, p. 9.

    v Lubaina Himid, ‘Some Thoughts from the Artist on Clothes and Patterns’, Lubaina Himid, exh. cat., London, 2021, p. 71.

    • Provenance

      Hollybush Gardens, London
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Literature

      André Langlois, 'Turner Prize winner's art on show at Brent school', Brent & Kilburn Times, 12 July 2022, online


The Bird Seller: Are You Listening

signed and dated 'Lubaina Himid 2021' on the reverse
oil on canvas
213.6 x 152.8 cm (84 1/8 x 60 1/8 in.)
Painted in 2021.

Full Cataloguing

£300,000 - 500,000 

Sold for £381,000

Contact Specialist

Louise Simpson
Associate Specialist
+44 7887 473 568

Modern & Contemporary Art: Evening & Day Sale

London Auction 27 June 2024