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Issue 11

Frieze Masters ‘Studio’: Mona Hatoum

The London-based artist discusses her practice of accumulating drawings and ephemera in her studio and how she has reimagined an object from childhood

BY Mona Hatoum in Frieze Masters , Interviews | 06 OCT 23

Mona Hatoum: My first studio came with my appointment as Senior Fellow in Fine Art at the South Glamorgan Institute of Higher Education in Cardiff. I had that space for three years, from 1989 to 1992, while I was teaching for one day a week. It was the first time since 1975, when I arrived in London, that I became financially secure and had plenty of time to devote to my own work. Having access to a proper studio space and a well-equipped sculpture workshop helped me make the shift from working in performance and video to installations and sculptural work, which is what I had been wanting to do for a long time.

Mona Hatoum, Cells (tower), 2023, hand-blown glass and stainless steel, 167 × 60 × 33 cm. Courtesy: © Mona Hatoum and White Cube; photo: Theo Christelis
Mona Hatoum, Cells (tower), 2023, hand-blown glass and stainless steel, 167 × 60 × 33 cm. Courtesy: © Mona Hatoum and White Cube; photo: Theo Christelis


I still feel that I am not a studio artist. I am more inspired when I am on the move.


My current studio in London is split between two locations. One is on the first floor of a warehouse building in Shoreditch and is about 2,000 square feet. I have had this studio since 2012 and use it for clean work, small sculptures, for making maquettes and planning upcoming exhibitions. It is a nice place to hold meetings of all kinds. I like the afternoons here, when the light streams through the four large windows at the front of the building. I also like to stay on in the evening and often work over the weekend, as I like it best when I am on my own. We now live above this studio because I like it when my workspace is in close proximity to, or even an extension of, my living space, so I can go in and out casually at any time of the day or night. My other space, which I got in 2018, is a ten- minute bus ride up the road in Dalston. It is on the ground floor at the back of an old Victorian factory, about 1,500 square feet in size, with four-metre-high ceilings. I use it for building large and messy works.

Research image, undated. Photo: © Mona Hatoum
Research image, undated. Photo: © Mona Hatoum

Despite this, I still feel that I am not a studio artist. I tend to produce work in several locations and often set up temporary studios whenever I am doing a residency abroad or working towards an exhibition where I am producing the work locally. I am more inspired when I am on the move. Wherever I am working, I always stick drawings from my notebooks on the wall, alongside reference images I collect from local magazines, papers, ephemera and photos of inspiring aspects of the architecture of the place. I often end up with anatomical images of the body, especially undulating patterns of brain and intestines, and I incorporate hair or fingernails in the drawings or sculptures. I tend to collect a lot of things from local popular markets and junkshops. I end up with small bird cages, kitchen utensils, samples of materials and religious icons, which I like for their kitsch value.

A Mouli-Julienne in Mona Hatoum’s Studio, 2023. Photo: Mona Hatoum
A Mouli-Julienne in Mona Hatoum’s Studio, 2023. Photo: Mona Hatoum

Particularly important to me is an object that predates the existence of any of my studios. It is an object from my childhood that I found at the back of my mother’s kitchen cupboard while I was helping her clear up during a visit to Beirut. It is a rotary vegetable shredder from the ’40s or ’50s called a Mouli-Julienne – probably one of the first food processors invented after the Second World War. I brought it back to London and looking at it again as an adult, it made me think of a scorpion brandishing its venomous tail or a three-legged prehistoric animal. At the end of the ’90s, I created a sculpture based on it, scaling it up to 17 times its original size until it loomed over your head and the shredding drum became big enough to accommodate a human body in a foetal position. There was something uncanny and menacing about it, like an execution machine, but it was also playful and funny, giving you the feeling that you had suddenly shrunk in size like Alice in Wonderland. This object will stay with me forever. 

As told to Livia Russell.

Further Information

Frieze Masters and Frieze London take place concurrently from 11-15 October 2023 in The Regent’s Park, London. Studio is on view at Frieze Masters for the duration of the fair. 


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Mona Hatoum’s work has been presented in solo exhibitions at prestigious institutions worldwide, including: KINDL – Centre for Contemporary Art, Berlin (2022-23); Georg Kolbe Museum, Berlin (2022-23); Neuer Berliner Kunstverein, Berlin (2022); Magasin III Museum for Contemporary Art, Stockholm (2022); IVAM - Institut Valencià d‘Art Modern, Spain (2021); Menil Collection, Houston / Pulitzer Arts Foundation, St. Louis (2017-2018); (2017); Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art (2017); Centre Pompidou, Paris / Tate Modern, London / Nykytaiteen Museo Kiasma, Helsinki (2015–2016); Mathaf: Arab Museum of Contemporary Art, Doha, Qatar (2014); Beirut Art Center (2010); Rennie Museum, Vancouver (2009); Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (2005). Hatoum participated in documenta 14 and documenta 11 (2017 and 2002); and in the biennials of Moscow (2013), Liverpool (2012), Istanbul (2011 and 1995) and Venice (2005 and 1995), among others. Hatoum was awarded the Joan Miró Prize (2011), the 10th Hiroshima Art Prize (2017) and more recently the Praemium Imperiale (2019).