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Lubaina Himid: A Fashionable Marriage

Solo show at The Pentonville Gallery. 1986
Date: 27 November, 1986 until 20 December, 1986
Organiser: The Pentonville Gallery

A Fashionable Marriage was a solo exhibition by Lubaina Himid that took place at Pentonville Gallery. The exhibition was a late 20th century reworking of Hogarth’s fourth painting in his celebrated mid 18th century  series, Marriage a La Mode. The painting in question The Toilette (the name on its frame), was called The countess’s morning levee. The painting had recently (in 1985) been used on the cover of David Dabydeen’s Hogarth’s Blacks: Images of Blacks in Eighteenth Century English Art (Dangaroo Press). The poster for Himid’s exhibition doubled as the exhibition’s brochure, with information on the reverse. The four sections of the brochure text began with a sentence or two about Hogarth with references to publications on  the artist. The second section was a visual guide to how Himid’s re-imagined characters could be read. The third section was a summary of the exhibition, and the fourth section was a brief Himid CV, though her name was twice misspelt as ‘Lubainia’.

The first section stated that “Hogarth loathed everyone and everything that wasn’t English, however what he bequeathed Black people, inadvertently, was some visible documentation of our contribution to and existence in British life.” The third section’s text began with a brief description of the Hogarth painting on which her reworking was based. “It shows a world of masquerade and illicit affairs. The Countess is in her bedroom having her hair done with her lover, Silvertongue the lawyer; her husband is away. The musical entertainment which ‘covers’ their liason (sic) is provided by a famous castrato of the day. The audience ranges from the bored to the ridiculous. On the walls are paintings of rape scenes ‘balanced’ by a portrait of an eminent clergyman. The Black slave/servants serve refreshments, decorate the room with their presence and witness the scene.”

The text went on to summarize Himid’s reworking, locating it firmly within mid 1980s ploitical realities.” In the 1986 version A Fashionable Marriage Margaret Thatcher throws herself towards the reclining/declining Reagan and allows herself to be invited to a masked ball - World War III - Nucleear Holocaust. The art world, maintaining the staus quo, sings on. The critic has an eager listener in the ‘feminist’ mega-artiste and as his accompanist the dealer/collector. As his nervous mimic the sideways glancing funding body. In the background mirroring Thatchers (sic) lackey is the angst/complacent school of British painting. On the walls the pornographic Picasso’s (sic) of rape are given ‘an air of respectability’ by his portrait of Gertrude Stein. The Black artist pours energy and time into white institutions and systems of approval and reward. However the key to the piece and the answer to the predicament the Black people find themselves in is resistance and unity. In recognising the individual/british (sic) situation as part of a wider global politic an international commitment to change is illustrated in the figure of the child seated foreground with the necessary weapons.”

Related items

click to show details of Lubaina Himid: A Fashionable Marriage poster/brochure

»  Lubaina Himid: A Fashionable Marriage poster/brochure

Brochure relating to an exhibition, 1986

People in this exhibition

»  Lubaina Himid MBE, CBE

Born, 1954 in Zanzibar, Tanzania

Exhibition venues

»  The Pentonville Gallery

London, United Kingdom