Turner Prize: Wikis


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Tate Britain: the venue for the Turner Prize.

The Turner Prize, named after the painter J. M. W. Turner, is an annual prize presented to a British visual artist under the age of 50. Awarding the prize is organised by the Tate gallery and staged at Tate Britain. Since its beginnings in 1984 it has become the United Kingdom's most publicised art award. Although it represents all media, and painters have also won the prize, it has become associated primarily with conceptual art.

As of 2004, the monetary award was established at £40,000. There have been different sponsors, including Channel 4 television and Gordon's Gin. The prize is awarded by a distinguished celebrity: in 2006 this was Yoko Ono.

It is a controversial event, mainly for the exhibits, such as a shark in formaldehyde by Damien Hirst and a dishevelled bed by Tracey Emin. Controversy has also come from other directions, including a Culture Minister (Kim Howells) criticising exhibits, a guest of honour (Madonna) swearing, a prize judge (Lynn Barber) writing in the press, and a speech by Sir Nicholas Serota (about the purchase of a trustee's work).

The event has also regularly attracted demonstrations, notably the K Foundation and the Stuckists, as well as alternative prizes to assert different artistic values.



Each year after the announcement of the four nominees and during the build-up to the announcement of the winner, the Prize receives intense attention from the media. Much of this attention is critical and the question is often asked, "is this art?" [1][2] The artists usually work in "innovative" media, including video art, installation art and unconventional sculpture, though painters have also won.

Artists are chosen based upon a showing of their work which they have staged in the preceding year. Nominations for the prize are invited from the public, although this was widely considered to have negligible effect — a suspicion confirmed in 2006 by Lynn Barber, one of the judges.[3] Typically, there is a three-week period in May for public nominations to be received; the short-list (which since 1991 has been of four artists) is announced in July; a show of the nominees' work opens at Tate Britain in late October; and the prize itself is announced at the beginning of December. The show stays open till January. The prize is officially not judged on the show at the Tate, however, but on the earlier show for which the artist was nominated.

The exhibition and prize rely on commercial sponsorship. By 1987, money for the was provided by Drexel Burnham Lambert; the brokerage company's withdrawal after its demise led to the cancellation of the prize for 1990. Channel 4, an independent television channel, stepped in for 1991, doubled the prize money to £20,000, and supported the event with documentaries and live broadcasts of the prize-giving. In 2004, they were replaced as sponsors by Gordon's gin, who also doubled the prize money to £40,000, with £5,000 going to each of the shortlisted artists, and £25,000 to the winner.

As much as the shortlist of artists reflects the state of British Art, the composition of the panel of judges, which includes curators and critics, provides some indication of who holds influence institutionally and internationally, as well as who are rising stars. Tate Director Sir Nicholas Serota has been the Chair of the jury since his tenure at the Tate (with the exception of the current year when Chairman is the Director of Tate Liverpool, where the prize is being staged). There are conflicting reports as to how much personal sway he has over the proceedings.

Sir Nicholas Serota holds up a Stuckist protest leaflet on the 2006 Prize day.

The media success of the Turner Prize contributed to the success of (and was in turn helped by) the late 1990s phenomena of Young British Artists (several of whom were nominees and winners), Cool Britannia, and exhibitions such as the Charles Saatchi-sponsored Sensation exhibition.

Most of the artists nominated for the prize selection become known to the general public for the first time as a consequence, some have talked of the difficulty of the sudden media exposure. Sale prices of the winners have generally increased [4]. Chris Ofili, Anish Kapoor and Jeremy Deller later became trustees of the Tate. Some artists, notably Sarah Lucas, have declined the invitation to be nominated.

Winners and nominees



The first Turner Prize was award to Malcolm Morley, an English artist living in the United States.


No prize due to lack of sponsorship.


Rachel Whiteread was the winner for House, a concrete cast of a house on the corner of Grove Road and Roman Road, London E3. Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond of the K Foundation received media coverage for the award of the "Anti-Turner Prize," £40,000 to be given to the "worst artist in Britain", voted from the real Turner Prize's short-list. Rachel Whiteread was awarded their prize. She refused to accept the money at first, but changed her mind when she heard the cash was to be burned instead, and gave £30,000 of it to artists in financial need and the other £10,000 to the housing charity, Shelter. The K Foundation went on to make a film in which they burned £1 million of their own money (Watch the K Foundation Burn a Million Quid). Sean Scully was a nominee.


Tracey Emin, debate controversy in 1997, nominee in 1999.

The winner, Gillian Wearing, showed a video 60 minutes of Silence (1996), where a group of actors were dressed in police uniforms and had to stand still for an hour (occasional surreptitious scratching could be observed).

A drunken Tracey Emin walked out of a live Channel 4 discussion programme, presented as part of the coverage of the award. The discussion was chaired by Tim Marlow and also included Roger Scruton, Waldemar Januszczak, Richard Cork, David Sylvester and Norman Rosenthal.[5] Emin wrote about the incident in her 2005 book Strangeland, describing her shock at reading the The Guardian writeup the following day.[6]


The talking point was Chris Ofili's use of balls of elephant dung attached to his mixed media images on canvas, as well as being used as supports on the floor to prop them up. An illustrator deposited dung on the steps in protest against his work. Ofili won the prize and it was the first time in twelve years that a painter had done so; it was presented by French fashion designer agnès b.[7] Ofili joked, "Oh man. Thank God! Where's my cheque?" and said, "I don't know what to say. I am just really happy. I can't believe it. It feels like a film and I will watch the tape when I get home."[7] One of Ofili's works, No Woman No Cry is based on the murder of Stephen Lawrence, murdered in a race attack.[7]

The jury included musician Neil Tennant, author Marina Warner, curator Fumio Nanjo and British Council officer Ann Gallagher, chaired by Nicholas Serota.[7]


Greatest attention was given to Tracey Emin's exhibit My Bed, which was a double bed in a dishevelled state with stained sheets, surrounded by detritus such as soiled underwear, condoms, slippers and empty drink bottles. Two artists, Yuan Chai and Jian Jun Xi, jumped onto the bed, stripped to their underwear, and had a pillow fight. Police detained the two, who called their performance Two Naked Men Jump Into Tracey's Bed. They claimed that her work had not gone far enough, and that they were improving it. Charges were not pressed against them. Emin also displayed two-dimensional artwork and videos. She was commonly thought to have been the winner (and is still sometimes referred to as such), although in fact the Prize was given to Steve McQueen for his video based on a Buster Keaton film.


Wolfgang Tillmans, winner in 2000

The prize was won by Wolfgang Tillmans. Other entries included a large painting by Glenn Brown based very closely on a science fiction illustration some years previously.[8]

The Stuckist art group staged their first demonstration against the prize, dressed as clowns, describing it as an "ongoing national joke" and "a state-funded advertising agency for Charles Saatchi", adding "the only artist who wouldn't be in danger of winning the Turner Prize is Turner", and concluding that it "should be re-named The Duchamp Award for the destruction of artistic integrity." The Guardian announced the winner of Turner Prize with the headline "Turner Winner Riles the Stuckists".[9]


Jacqueline Crofton threw eggs in protest

Controversy was caused by the eventual winner, Martin Creed's work, The Lights Going On and Off, which was an empty room with the lights going on and off. Artist Jacqueline Crofton threw eggs at the walls of the room containing Creed's work as a protest.[10] At the prize ceremony, Madonna gave him the prize and said, "At a time when political correctness is valued over honesty I would also like to say right on motherfuckers!"[11] This was on live TV before the 9 p.m. "watershed", and an attempt to "bleep" it out was too late. Channel 4 were subsequently given an official rebuke by the Independent Television Commission.[12]


The media focused on a large display by Fiona Banner whose wall-size text piece, Arsewoman in Wonderland, described a pornographic film in detail. The Guardian asked, "It's art. But is it porn?" calling in "Britain's biggest porn star", Ben Dover, to comment.[13] Culture Minister Kim Howells made a scathing criticism of the exhibits as "conceptual bullshit". Prince Charles wrote to him: "It's good to hear your refreshing common sense about the dreaded Turner prize. It has contaminated the art establishment for so long."[14] Graffiti artist Banksy stencilled "Mind the crap" on the steps of the Tate, who called in emergency cleaners to remove it.[10] The prize was won by Keith Tyson.


Grayson Perry, winner in 2003

The Chapman Brothers (Jake and Dinos Chapman) were given what was generally felt to be a long-overdue nomination, and caused press attention for a sculpture, Death, that appeared to be two cheap plastic blow-up sex dolls with a dildo. It was in fact made of bronze, painted to look like plastic.

Attention was also given to transvestite Grayson Perry who exhibited pots decorated with sexual imagery, and was the prize winner. He wore a flouncy skirt to collect the prize, announced by Sir Peter Blake, who said, after being introduced by Sir Nicholas Serota, "Thank you very much Nick. I'm quite surprised to be here tonight, because two days ago I had a phone call asking if I would be a judge for the Not the Turner Prize. And two years ago I was asked by the Stuckists to dress as a clown and come and be on the steps outside, so I am thrilled and slightly surprised to be here."[15]


The media focused on a large computer simulation of a former hideout of Osama bin Laden by Ben Langlands and Nikki Bell, as well as the fact that one of their exhibits, a film in a Kabul courtroom was withdrawn as it related to an ongoing trial of a suspected Afghan warlord.[4] Betting favourite Jeremy Deller won the prize with his film Memory Bucket, documenting both George W. Bush's hometown Crawford, Texas – and the siege in nearby Waco. The prize money was increased this year with £25,000 to the winner, and, for the first time, other nominees were rewarded (with £5,000 each).


Isabella Blow arrives as a guest at the 2005 Prize

A great deal was made in the press about the winning entry by Simon Starling, which was a shed that he had converted into a boat, sailed down the River Rhine and turned back into a shed again. Two newspapers bought sheds and floated them to parody the work. The prize was presented by Culture Minister, David Lammy. Before introducing him, Sir Nicholas Serota, in an "unusual, possibly unprecedented" move, took the opportunity to make "an angry defence" of the Tate's purchase of The Upper Room.[16][17]


Security guards on the steps of Tate Britain during the 2006 Prize

The nominees were announced on 16 May 2006. The exhibition of nominees' work opened at Tate Britain on October 3. Yoko Ono, the celebrity announcer chosen for the year, declared Tomma Abts the winner on December 4 during a live Channel 4 broadcast, although this was part of the evening news broadcast, rather than in a dedicated programme as in recent years. The total prize money was £40,000. £25,000 awarded to the winner and £5,000 to each of the other 3 nominees. The prize was sponsored by the makers of Gordon's Gin.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, The Sunday Telegraph obtained emails between the Tate and judge Lynn Barber, which revealed that the judges had been sent a list of shows by artists too late to be able to see them and instead were being supplied with catalogues and photographs of work.[18]

Stuckist demonstration quoting Turner jurist Lynn Barber

More controversy ensued when Barber wrote in The Observer about her troubles as a judge, even asking, "Is it all a fix?",[3] a comment subsequently displayed on a Stuckist demonstration placard, much to her chagrin.[19]

The Judges were:

Lynn Barber, journalist, The Observer
Margot Heller, Director, South London Gallery
Matthew Higgs, Director and Chief Curator, White Columns, New York
Andrew Renton, writer and Director of Curating, Goldsmiths College
Nicholas Serota, Director, Tate and Chairman of the Jury


Abby Jackson. Foreign Policy 2000: One of the works recreated in State Britain

The winner of the £25,000 Prize was Mark Wallinger.[20] His display at the Turner Prize show was Sleeper, a film of him dressed in a bear costume wandering around an empty museum, but the prize was officially given for State Britain, which recreated all the objects in Brian Haw's anti-war display in Parliament Square, London.[20] The judges commended Wallinger's work for its "immediacy, visceral intensity and historic importance", and called it "a bold political statement with art's ability to articulate fundamental human truths."[20] The prize was presented by Dennis Hopper.[20]

For the first time in its 23 year history, the Turner Prize was held outside of London, in Tate Liverpool (in support of Liverpool being the European Capital of Culture in 2008). Concurrently there was an exhibition of previous winners at Tate Britain in London.

Unlike recent years, Sir Nicholas Serota was not the jury chairman; instead, the chairman was Christoph Grunenberg, the Director of Tate Liverpool. The panel was:[21]

Fiona Bradley, Director of the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh
Michael Bracewell, critic and writer
Thelma Golden, Director and Chief Curator of the Studio Museum, Harlem
Miranda Sawyer, writer and broadcaster
Christoph Grunenberg, Director of Tate Liverpool (Chairman of the Jury)

The nominees were:[22]

Mark Wallinger for his Tate Britain installation, State Britain
Nathan Coley, a Glasgow artist, who makes installations based on buildings
Zarina Bhimji, a Ugandan Asian photographer and filmmaker
Mike Nelson, an installation artist

Nelson and Wallinger had both previously been nominated for the prize.

The Stuckists announced that they were not demonstrating for the first time since 2000,[23] because of "the lameness of this year's show, which does not merit the accolade of the traditional demo".[24] Instead, art group AAS reenacted previous Stuckist demonstrations in protest against their own practice at the Royal Standard Turner Prize Extravaganza[25]


For the second year running, Sir Nicholas Serota did not chair the Turner Prize jury; instead Stephen Deuchar, director of Tate Britain, was the chair. The other members were Jennifer Higgie, editor of frieze, Daniel Birnbaum, rector of the Staedelschule international art academy, Frankfurt, architect David Adjaye, and Suzanne Cotter, senior curator, Modern Art Oxford.[26] The prize winner received £25,000 and the other three nominees £5,000 each. In recent years the prize has attracted commercial sponsorship, but did not have any during the 2008 events.[26] The nominees were Runa Islam, Mark Leckey, Goshka Macuga, and Cathy Wilkes; the Prize exhibition opened at Tate Britain on 30 September and the winner was announced on 1 December.[27] Mark Leckey was the winner of the Turner Prize of 2008.


The winner of the £25,000 Prize was Richard Wright.[28] Stephen Deuchar again chaired the jury.

The other shortlisted artists were Enrico David, Roger Hiorns and Lucy Skaer.[29]



Janet Street-Porter: "a valuable role"
  • Critic Richard Cork said, "there will never be a substitute for approaching new art with an open mind, unencumbered by rancid clichés. As long as the Turner Prize facilitates such engagement, the buzz surrounding it will remain a minor distraction."[30]
  • In 2006 newspaper columnist Janet Street-Porter condemned the Stuckists' "feeble knee-jerk reaction" to the prize and said, "The Turner Prize and Becks Futures both entice thousands of young people into art galleries for the first time every year. They fulfil a valuable role".[31]
  • In "The Prize," chapter 4 of her book Seven Days in the Art World, Sarah Thornton explores the nature of competition between artists, the function of accolades in their careers, and the relationship between the media and the museum. She argues that the Turner Prize "has a reputation for being a reliable indicator of an artist’s ability to sustain a vibrant art practice over the long term, but perhaps it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The personal confidence gained from being nominated can galvanize an artist’s ambitions, while the museum’s public endorsement leads to further exhibition opportunities."[32]
  • Art critic Dan Fox (Associate editor of frieze) argues that the Turner Prize should be considered a barometer for the mood of the nation. 2007 winner Mark Wallinger was first nominated in 1995, alongside Hirst - who walked away with the prize that year during an era of Tony Blair and New Labour, rock stars in Downing Street and Britpop bombarding the airwaves. In 2007 the UK is faced with the fall out of the Iraq War, Lilly Allen, Amy Winehouse and 'the war on terror' - things are not exactly rosy, so it is, arguably, of little surprise that such a blatant political work came to the nation's attention.[33]


  • The Evening Standard critic Brian Sewell wrote "The annual farce of the Turner Prize is now as inevitable in November as is the pantomime at Christmas".
Kim Howells: "cold mechanical, conceptual bullshit"
  • Critic Jonathan Jones, wrote:"Turner Prize art is based on a formula where something looks startling at first and then turns out to be expressing some kind of banal idea, which somebody will be sure to tell you about. The ideas are never important or even really ideas, more notions, like the notions in advertising. Nobody pursues them anyway, because there's nothing there to pursue." [34]
  • In 2002 Culture Minister (and former art student) Kim Howells pinned the following statement to a board in a room specially-designated for visitors' comments: "If this is the best British artists can produce then British art is lost. It is cold mechanical, conceptual bullshit. Kim Howells. P.S. The attempts at conceptualisation are particularly pathetic and symptomatic of a lack of conviction." His stance was approved by the government, who saw it as a popular one.

Alternative prizes

The criteria of the Turner Prize have been challenged by alternative prizes. In 1993 by the K Foundation gave an "Anti-Turner Prize" of £40,000 for the "worst artist in Britain" with the same short list as the official prize: the winner of both prizes was Rachel Whiteread. In 1999, Trevor Prideaux organised the ongoing Turnip Prize as "a crap art competition ... You can enter anything you like, but it must be rubbish." In 2000 the Stuckists instituted "The Real Turner Prize" for painters, and an "Art Clown of the Year Award" for "outstanding idiocy in the visual arts", both continued in subsequent years (the Clown award given in 2002 to Serota).[35]

In 2002, Quintessentially, a private members' club run by Tom Parker Bowles, ran the "Alternative Turner Prize" with judges including Brian Sewell, who said it was for "a wider and more generous choice of art and artist."[36] In 2003, the Daily Mail ran a "Not the Turner Prize" competition. In 2005, the BBC staged a "Mock Turner".[37] In 2002, the alTURNERtive Prize was established at Welling School in Bexley, London, by Henry Ward. The exhibition celebrates the contemporary artwork by students aged 14–18. Since 2002 the exhibition has been judged by critics such as Michael Archer (who judged the Turner Prize the year Keith Tyson won) and has been presented by Richard Wentworth, Hew Locke and Ryan Gander.[38] In 2007, an "Alternative Turner Prize" was staged at Tate Liverpool for those aged 13–25.[39] Also in that year, Merseyside Stop the War Coalition held the "Alturnertive Turner Prize" in Liverpool with support from Mark Wallinger.[40] In 2008, a "Turner Prize" was promoted by two brothers named Turner for the Holmfirth Arts Festival with exhibits in vans.[41]

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ "Head to Head: Turner Prize — Is It Art?" BBC, 2 December 1999Retrieved 22 March 2006
  2. ^ "Turner Prize: Is It Art? BBC, 4 November 2002 Retrieved 22 March 2006
  3. ^ a b Barber, Lynn (2006)"How I suffered for art's sake" The Observer, 1 October 2006. Accessed 15 January 2006
  4. ^ a b Kennedy, Maev (2004)"Turner prize shock: out of four serious competitors, the best artist wins" The Guardian, 7 December 2004. Accessed 15 January 2007
  5. ^ Clare Longrigg, Sixty Minutes, Noise: by art's bad girl, The Guardian, December 4, 1997.
  6. ^ Barry Didcock, A harrowing self-portrait, Sunday Herald, Oct 16, 2005.
  7. ^ a b c d "Elephant dung artist scoops award", BBC, 3 December 1998. Retrieved 9 April 2008.
  8. ^ "Copycat row hits Turner Prize". BBC News. 2000-11-28. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/1044375.stm. Retrieved 2007-11-26.  
  9. ^ "Turner Winner Riles the Stuckists," The Guardian, November 29, 2000 Retrieved March 26, 2000
  10. ^ a b Youngs, Ian (2002)"The art of Turner protests", BBC www.bbc.co.uk, 31 October 2002. Accessed 8 January 2007
  11. ^ Gibbons, Fiachra (2001)"Judges switched on as Turner Prize goes to the Creed of nothingness" The Guardian online, 10 December 2001. Accessed 8 January 2007
  12. ^ Innes, John (2002)"Madonna rebuked for Turner Prize outburst" The Scotsman online, 11 February 2002. Accessed 8 January 2007
  13. ^ Brockes, Emma "It's art. But is it porn?", The Guardian online, 5 November 2002. Retrieved 21 May 2007.
  14. ^ Leach, Ben. "Prince Charles in his own words", The Daily Telegraph, 13 November 2008. Retrieved 14 November 2008.
  15. ^ "Turner Prize demo 2003", stuckism.com. Retrieved 2 April 2008.
  16. ^ Notebook by Andrew Marr (2nd item), The Daily Telegraph, December 7, 2005 Retrieved March 24, 2006
  17. ^ "It's a shed, it's collapsible, it floats and (with help from a bike) it's the winner", The Guardian, December 6, 2005 Retrieved March 24, 2006
  18. ^ Hastings, Chris (2006)"Shows missed by judges, questions over artists… It must be the Turner Prize" The Sunday Telegraph online, 30 April 2006. Accessed 20 May 2006
  19. ^ Barber, Lynn (2006)"My Turner's over. Phew! The Observer, 10 December 2006. Accessed 16 January 2007
  20. ^ a b c d Higgins, Charlotte. "Bear man walks away with Turner Prize", The Guardian, 3 December 2007. Retrieved 3 December 2007.
  21. ^ "Turner Prize 07" tate.org. Accessed 21 May 2007
  22. ^ Reynolds, Nigel (2007-05-10). "Iraq protest camp shortlisted for Turner Prize". The Daily Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/05/08/nturner108.xml. Retrieved 2007-05-21.  
  23. ^ Reynolds, Nigel. "Mark Wallinger wins 2007 Turner Prize", Daily Telegraph, 3 December 2007. Retrieved 4 December 2007.
  24. ^ "Stuckists' Turner Prize Protest Apology", 3:AM Magazine, 2 December 2007. Retrieved 3 December 2007.
  25. ^ "Documentation of AAS Stuckist demonstration 2007".
  26. ^ a b Gayford, Martin. "Leckey, Wilkes, Islam, Macuga on U.K. Turner Prize Shortlist ", bloomberg.com, 13 May 2008. Retrieved 14 May 2008.
  27. ^ "Tate courts controversy with Turner Prize shortlist", The Times, 14 May 2008. Retrieved 14 May 2008.
  28. ^ "Artist Richard Wright strikes gold as winner of this year's Turner prize". The Guardian. 2009-12-07. http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2009/dec/07/turner-prize-winner-richard-wright. Retrieved 2009-12-08.  
  29. ^ "Turner Prize awarded to painter Richard Wright". The Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/turner-prize/6754766/Turner-Prize-awarded-to-painter-Richard-Wright.html.  
  30. ^ "The Turner Prize: Everyone's a winner" Tate Magazine (2002) on the Tate web site. Accessed 15 January 2007
  31. ^ Street-Porter, Janet (2006)"Paul is better off without Heather" The Independent online, 18 May 2006 (pay to view). Accessed 20 May 2006.
  32. ^ http://sarah-thornton.com/404/seven-days-in-the-art-world-british/
  33. ^ Fox, Dan. "Comment Turner Prize 2007", frieze online.
  34. ^ Jones, Jonathan. "Blake's Heaven", The Guardian, 25 April 2005. Retrieved 14 May 2008.
  35. ^ "A custard pie for Serota as Turner Prize winner named", The Daily Telegraph, 9 December 2002. Retrieved 27 March 2006
  36. ^ Gibbons, Fiachra. "Crucified artist up for Alternative Turner", The Guardian, 30 November 2002. Retrieved 17 November 2008.
  37. ^ "Judge our Mock Turner final" BBC, 29 November 2005. Accessed 15 January 2007
  38. ^ "Alternative Turner Prize", BBC. Retrieved 17 November 2008.
  39. ^ "Alternative Turner Prize Competition 2007", Tate. Retrieved 17 August 2008.
  40. ^ Anderson, Vicky. "Stop the War launches rival art contest", Liverpool Daily Post, 21 November 2007. Retrieved 17 November 2008.
  41. ^ Barrow, Peter."Vanguard of valley art on display!", Huddersfield Daily Examiner, 23 June 2008. Retrieved 17 November 2008.

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