The Queen’s Birthday Honors signal extraordinary contributions and service of people within the UK, with each year posting the lists on the queen’s birthday in June. This year, three pioneering artists have received knighthoods.
Firstly, there’s Nicholas Coleridge, former British media executive, author, and chairman of the Victoria and Albert Museum since 2015. He was knighted for his services to museums and creative industries and praised for presiding over a remarkable period of resurgence for the museum.
Isaac Julien, the pioneering artist, and a household name in the world of British filmmakers, also received honors. Julien was a noteworthy professor of the arts at UC Santa Cruz and the co-founder of the Sankofa Film and Video Collective in 1983. Sankofa’s goal was the development of independent black film culture in production, exhibition, and audience. Julien combines different artistic disciplines in his work, converging photography, dance, music, theatre, painting, and sculpture to construct a compelling visual narrative.
Isaac Julien is considered one of the most prolific figures at the intersection of cinema and media art. His work is held in museum collections in the UK and the US.
His work portrays the black and gay identity wholeheartedly, commenting on issues of sexuality and class. He had been appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 2017 Birthday Honours, and has finally been knighted in the 2022 birthday Honors. Julien has been appointed Champion of Honour, with his work considered to break down the barriers between different artistic disciplines. Among Julien’s notable filmography, we can mention his cult classic and debut film Looking for Langston (1989), Young Soul Rebels (1991), Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Mask (1996), and BaadAsssss Cinema (2002).
Chila Kumari Burman is a significant multimedia artist who made a name for herself in the Black British Art movement of the 1980s. She’s a printmaker, painter, collage maker, and photographer who protested against police brutality and racial discrimination through her prints. She’s one of the first British Asian female artists to have monographs written about her work.
She was honored with an MBE for her fun and playful installations during the COVID-19 pandemic. She’s famous for her vibrant sculptures that carry an uplifting message, such as the giant glittery ice cream cone sculpture called Eat Me Now (2013). The ice cream cone represents a big part of Burman’s past. Her father bought a van and became an ice cream man when he couldn’t find work after arriving from India to the Merseyside in the 1950s.
Both Burman and Julien are multimedia representatives of noteworthy movements seeking to spark a conversation on class, race, sexuality, cultural history, and minorities through art. Without a doubt, their great contributions to art have earned them the Order of the Companion of Honour.
Words by Sebastian Caledron.