Habib Hajallie Wins The Robert Walters Group UK New Artist of the Year Award

Habib Hajallie

Habib Hajallie, was named as the winner of the Robert Walters Group UK New Artist of the Year Award, at an awards ceremony held at the prestigious Saatchi Gallery on Thursday 10th November for his work titled “Questions of our Day.”

Habib was recipient to the £10,000 cash prize – out of a possible 1,400 number of entries – presented by global recruitment consultancy Robert Walters Group, after being selected ahead of the other nine shortlisted artists for work submitted within the brief of ‘The Unimagined Future.’

Habib – based in the South East – wowed the judges with his intricately detailed figures realised on the pages of antique Sierra Leonean texts for his winning piece.

Habib’s practice is informed by his Sierra Leonean and Lebanese heritage, in the representation of figures that have been left-out of traditional British Portraiture he works to investigate how identity can be reconstructed by historical oppression.

Habib Hajallie winning artwork
Habib Hajallie winning artwork
Photo courtesy of Tom Morley

His canvases of antique texts and maps recontextualise these figures to confront the enduring ethnocentrisms still embedded within modern western society. Through his use of medium – a modern ballpoint pen depicting the empowered subjects, whose likeness is inspired by himself and his family, Habib constructs links in ink between past, present and future.

Robert Walters Group UK New Artist of the Year Award 10 Shortlisted Artists
10 Shortlisted Artists
Photo courtesy of Tom Morley

The winning piece of work will be on display at the Robert Walters Group head office in Covent Garden for 12 months. The digital gallery showcasing all the shortlisted artist’s works along with an online voting poll for users to vote for their favourites has gone live today. Votes for the Peoples Choice Award will close on the 10th January, with the winner announced on Thursday 12th January

Habib Harjallie, winner of the 2023 Robert Walters Group UK New Artist of the Year Award, commented:

“I was genuinely happy to just be selected to exhibit at Saatchi Gallery with nine other ambitious and talented emerging artists – being shortlisted felt like a triumph. I’ve been a full-time artist for the past three-and-a-half years; winning the award is profoundly humbling and will serve to further galvanise my ambitions.

“As a young artist from an ethnically diverse background, being recognised for an art prize that is intended to showcase the work of new British art being made today, is something that I hope will resonate with people from similar backgrounds as myself.

Habib Hajallie (winner) and Tyreis Holder (runner-up)
Habib Hajallie (winner) Left and Tyreis Holder (runner-up) Right
Photo courtesy of Tom Morley

For too long the work of Black British artists went unseen or underappreciated, I have to thank the generations of immensely driven and talented Black British artists that paved the way to allow people such as myself opportunities for greater visibility to challenge archaic and oppressive notions of what it means to British.

“I can’t think of any organisations that champion emerging artists, in the way that UKNA does. They consistently provide an array of opportunities to catalyse the careers of up-and-coming artists.

“This award in particular is truly special. Having the opportunity to exhibit at the world renowned Saatchi Gallery is a dream come true for any artist, at any stage of their career; also having the chance to win a £10k prize offers a unique opportunity to both gain practical exposure and crucial financial support. I can only thank Robert Walters, Saatchi Gallery and UKNA for their work in tandem to provide such an important showcase for emerging artists.”

Tyreis Holder – based in London – was recipient of the £5,000 runner-up prize for her work titled ‘Dun Dunnah;’  a response to the explosion in media attention of The Black Lives Matter movement, to an unimagined future, of what it truly looks like when healing and generational trauma breaking takes place via textile and poetry. It is both a critique of present/systemic oppression and failure; and a healing site–for future self and community.

Tyreis Holder artwork
Tyreis Holder artwork

The awards set out each year to discover and champion exceptional artists who are representative of contemporary Britain, and is bought together by three leading organisations – global recruitment consultancy Robert Walters Group, arts charity UK New Artists, and renowned contemporary art platform Saatchi Gallery – to help provide a career springboard for emerging artists.

The awards ceremony took place on Thursday 10th November at the Saatchi Gallery, and was curated by Garth Gratrix, an internationally exhibiting artist, Clore visual arts fellow, curator and studio director based in the North West of England. Judges included  Paul Foster – Director of Saatchi Gallery; Michelle Bowen – Director of UK New Artists; Lisa Gee – longstanding Director of the Harley Foundation Charitable Trust; Saad Eddine Said – internationally-acclaimed curator and Artistic Director and CEO of New Art Exchange; Won Hee Nam – CEO of Art Lab N3 and Gallery N&K based in Seoul, South Korea; and Anne von Freyburg – artist and winner of the 2021 UK New Artist of the Year award.

Robert Walters, CEO of Robert Walters Group comments: 

“We were so pleased to see the positive reception to the shortlisted work on display last night – and to see so many returning supporters to the evening celebrations.

“Providing opportunities for ambitious professionals to achieve their potential is the foundation of our business and as an organisation it was a privilege to be able to provide such a platform for young artists in the UK.

“We are looking forward to the return of the Robert Walters Group UK New Artist of the Year Award next year.”

Michelle Bowen, Director, UKNA adds:

“The shortlist for the first Robert Walters Group UK New Artist of the Year Award has been exceptional and UKNA thanks all ten finalists for their outstanding contributions.  We would like to congratulate Habib Hajallie on winning the award and look forward to working with him over the coming year.

“We also wish continued success to our runner up Tyreis Holder. Collaborating with Robert Walters Group and Saatchi Gallery on yet another successful awards continues to help us on our mission of reaching new audiences and supporting more new and emerging artists.”

©2022 Robert Walters Group, Tom Morley

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