Michael Armitage receives Government Art Collection’s Robson Orr TenTen Award

Kenya-born British artist Michael Armitage’s work, ‘Ngaben’, has been unveiled in a ceremony at 10 Downing Street today

Michael Armitage Ngaben artwork, winner of Government Art Collection’s Robson Orr TenTen Award
Michael Armitage, Ngaben, 2023
(Image credit: © Michael Armitage – Commissioned by the Government Art Collection for The Robson Orr TenTen Award 2023, a GAC Outset Annual Commission)

Kenya-born British artist Michael Armitage is the latest beneficiary of the Government Art Collection’s Robson Orr TenTen Award, it has today been announced. His new work, Ngaben, was unveiled at 10 Downing Street today by arts and heritage minister Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay.

The Government Art Collection, presented in partnership with Outset Contemporary Art Fund and sponsored by philanthropists Sybil Robson Orr and Matthew Orr, commissions a different artist every year to create a limited-edition print to be displayed in diplomatic buildings internationally. Money raised will go towards purchasing work by new and under-represented British artists. A small number of prints will also be available to purchase through the Outset Contemporary Art Fund.

Michael Armitage

Michael Armitage 

(Image credit: © Anna Kucera. Courtesy MCA Australia)

Armitage is the latest artist to be announced as part of the ten-year scheme, which has previously given awards to Hurvin Anderson (2018), Tacita Dean (2019), Yinka Shonibare (2020), Lubaina Himid (2021) and Rachel Whiteread (2022). This year, Sybil Robson Orr and Matthew Orr also plan to support a multi-year school programme that would see the print taken into schools and used as a learning resource. 

Armitage’s print, Ngaben, pays tribute to a close friend in Bali who recently died, in an interweaving of the European aesthetic and east African techniques that the artist is known for. The title of this piece refers to Bali’s Hindu cremation ceremony, which puts the burning pyre at the centre of the cycle of life narrative.

‘Culture exists in the most difficult moments of people’s lives, at points at which they grieve and points at which they experience loss; it exists in celebration; it’s a reminder that we’re not here as isolated individuals, we’re here as something greater, and we have a responsibility to each other,’ he says. ‘For me, that’s really what it is to be an artist... It’s a very hard thing to quantify but it’s entirely necessary.’

people and print

Matthew Orr, Sybil Robson Orr, Eliza Gluckman, Lord Parkinson at No. 10 Downing Street

(Image credit: Government Art Collection)

Adds Eliza Gluckman, director of Government Art Collection: ‘Since 2018 the innovative model for the Robson Orr TenTen Award has not only seen the creation of six impactful prints by some of the UK’s most celebrated artists, but has also generated funds to support the acquisition of works by 27 artists, adding works by artists such as Sonia Boyce and Barbara Walker [the latter currently featured in the Turner Prize 2023 exhibition] to the Collection. Michael Armitage’s moving print marks the importance of international and intergenerational peer support of artists. This year the impact of the partnership between the Government Art Collection, Outset Contemporary Art Fund and the Robson Orrs will reach hundreds of school children too. We are grateful for the support to continue the Collection’s promotion of British art and the expansion of our public engagement programme.’


Hannah Silver is the Art, Culture, Watches & Jewellery Editor of Wallpaper*. Since joining in 2019, she has overseen offbeat design trends and in-depth profiles, and written extensively across the worlds of culture and luxury. She enjoys meeting artists and designers, viewing exhibitions and conducting interviews on her frequent travels.