Sir Isaac Julien RA (b. 1960)

Isaac Julien is a Turner prize-nominated artist and filmmaker and a recipient of The Royal Academy of Arts Charles Wollaston Award appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2017.

Julien creates multi-screen film installations and photographs that incorporate different artistic disciplines to create a poetic and unique visual language. Born in 1960 in London, he is one of the most prominent figures at the intersection of media art and cinema today. While studying painting and fine art film at St Martin’s School of Art, from which he graduated in 1984, Isaac Julien co-founded ‘Sankofa Film and Video Collective’, in which he was active from 1983–1992.

Julien’s debut film Looking for Langston garnered the artist a cult following. The acclaimed 1989 documentary-drama explores author Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance. The film joined Tate Britain collections in 2019 and was exhibited as part of the museum’s collections display. Early works also include Young Soul Rebels (1991), awarded the Semaine de la Critique Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. His 1996 film Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Mask has been newly conserved and restored by the British Film Institute and was re-launched in a Blu-ray version in 2017.

Julien has pioneered multi-screen installations with works such as Western Union: Small Boats (2007), which won the Charles Wollaston Award in 2017, Ten Thousand Waves (2010) and Playtime (2014).

His most recent works A Marvellous Entanglement (2019) and Lessons of the Hour (2019) have been internationally acclaimed and presented in solo exhibitions at McEvoy Foundation for the Arts, San Francisco (2021); MAXXI, Rome (2020); Neuberger Museum, New York (2020); SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah (2019); Memorial Art Gallery, University of Rochester, Rochester (2019).

Julien’s work is held in collections including Tate, London; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC; the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art (Zeitz MOCAA), Cape Town and Towner Art Gallery Collection, Eastbourne, UK. In 2013, a monographic survey of his career to date, Riot, was published by MoMA, NY.

Julien was awarded a Knighthood (Knight Bachelor) for services to Diversity and Inclusion in Art in The Queen’s Jubilee Birthday Honours List 2022.


Royal Academician


Born: 1960 in London

Elected RA: 12 December 2017

Gender: Male

Preferred media: Film making and Photography

Works by Sir Isaac Julien in the RA Collection

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