The UK New Year’s Honours list for 2021 is composed of 1,329 recipients who have been recognised for outstanding service in their respective fields. With 2020 being a year like no other, the 2021 list is notable on several accounts.
It marks the most ethnically diverse honours list ever, with 14.2% of recipients being from Black, Asian, or minority ethnic heritage. 14.8% of honourees were from the public sector being recognised especially for response to the pandemic. There are also a range of notable figures from the art world who are being recognised for their service to the field.
Artist Michael Landy received a CBE. He famously catalogued every single material possession he owned and then destroyed them all for his 2001 piece Breakdown. This inventory listed 7,227 items and after the project was completed he owned only the blue boiler suit he was wearing as every possession, from his Saab 900 Turbo Car to his father’s sheepskin coat, was destroyed in front of him.
In 2016, he spoke to BBC Culture about the project, stating, “it was the happiest two weeks of my life.” Landy added that “at moments, admittedly, I felt like I was witnessing my own death, because people I hadn’t seen for years would turn up. […] But often I did feel real elation. No one had ever destroyed all their worldly belongings before.” The project is considered a provocative masterpiece of recent British art.
Another artist honoured is Pakistani-born sculptor Hamila Cassell, who received an MBE. Specialising in clay, her work fuses her Asian roots with a passion for African pattern work. She said of achieving the MBE, “I’ve been carving clay for about 25 years and it’s such an honour to receive this recognition.”
Other artists who have received honours include architect David Chipperfield and Stephen Deuchar, the former founding director of Tate Britain.