British artists John Akomfrah and Grayson Perry were knighted as a part of the 2023 New Years Honours, in which more than a thousand people across England and beyond were recognized for their work in their respective fields and communities.
David Sutherland, an illustrator, was also recognized with an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) award, the BBC reported last week.
Akomfrah, who left Ghana in 1966 as a nine-year old, following intense political unrest, has focused much of his work on displacement, imperialism, and slavery as well as intense meditations on environmental harm. He works primarily with art films and multi-screen film installations. Akomfrah joins Isaac Julien as one of the few black artists to have been knighted.
Grayson Perry is a much-beloved British artist whose television show Grayson’s Art Club began airing on Channel 4 in 2020. The conceit of the show was to provide some relief to the British public as it weathered successive COVID-19 lockdowns. Each week, Perry would ask viewers to submit a work of art they made on a theme he had chosen. Over the ensuring three years, the show has received tens of thousands of submissions. But Perry has a long history in the arts previous to this TV, having won the Turner Prize in 2003.
In years past, not just artists but art-world figures have been recognized. In 2020, for example, Stephen Deuchar, former director of Tate Britain who also worked at the UK’s Art Fund for ten years, was knighted alongside Christopher le Brun, who had been the president of the Royal Academy of Arts in London.
The honors include regular people in addition to notable politicians, athletes, researchers. 60% of the honorees are citizens who have received British Empire Medals for their work in their communities through volunteering or charity.