04 December 2007

The Turner Prize 2007

This year's Turner Prize for contemporary British art was announced last night and was won by Mark Wallinger for his work State Britain, a meticulous re-creation of anti-war protester, Brian Haw's Parliament Square protest. Haw has been on the green opposite the seat of the British Government since 2001 but due to the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (forbidding unauthorised demonstrations within a kilometre of Parliament Square) it has been largely dismantled.

Ironically, Wallinger's reconstruction, when displayed at Tate Britain on the South Bank, was with-in the kilometre exclusion zone. But they escaped the wrath of the authorities due to it's status as a work of art. Wallinger is most famous for his video installation of himself disguised in a bear suit looking around an art gallery and his controversial Ecce Homo, a statue of a bald Jesus Christ, which stood on the empty plinth in Trafalgar Square in 1999.

The Turner Prize has always been controversial so here is a list of facts about this country's most prestigious art award.

  • The Turner Prize is awarded for the best exhibition by a British or Britain-based artist in the 12 months before the nominations are made in May. Each of the shortlisted artists receives £5,000.State Britain cost Wallinger £90,000 to create and the commission paid £3000 for it.
  • The Turner Prize winner wins £25,000, which will go some way into recouping the costs
  • It took 14 people six months to make State of Britain. most of the time was spent sourcing the materials and suitable aging them to reflect the days the original items spent outside.
  • London born Wallinger, studied at Chelsea School of Art and at Goldsmiths and is quoted as saying "I think art needs to engage the viewer and has to have a hook that isn't entirely cerebral." and "I like Velázquez, Manet, Warhol; realists that held up a mirror to their society that was radical, but not pedantic."
  • Wallinger was also nominated for the contest in twelve years ago, as was fellow nominee Mike Nelson. the other losers thins year were sculptor Nathan Coley and photographer and film-maker Zarina Bhimji.
  • Previous winners include Howard Hodgkins (first winner in 1985), Gilbert and George (1986), Richard Long (1989), Gillian Wearing (1997, with 60 minutes of Silence, a video of silent actors standing still for an hour, dressed in police uniforms), Chris Ofili (1989, with his elephant dung adorned paintings), Simon Starling (2005, who converted the materials from a garden shed into a boat, sailed it down the River Rhine, before reconstructing the shed), Tomma Abts (2006).
  • The 1999 winner was not Tracey Emin, with her famous and controversial unmade bed and tent with the names of all the men she'd ever slept with sewn inside, but video artist Steve McQueen. Emin just got more column inches along the lines of "...but is it art?"
  • Damian Hirst has also never won the prize, despite nominations in 1992 and 1995.
  • "But is it art" was also asked of 2001 winner Martin Creed's work, an empty room with the lights going on and off.
  • The Guardian newspaper expanded on the phrase in 2002, commenting on Fiona Banner's wall size text exhibit, Arsewoman in Wonderland, described a pornographic film in detail,"It's art. But is it porn?"
  • Sexual imagery seem to excite the judges. The Champman Brother's entry in 2003 appeared to be two cheap plastic blow up dolls with dildos. They were in fact bronze sculptures painted to look like plastic.
  • This year, for the first time, the Turner Prize was held in Tate Liverpool, not in London, to support the city being European Capital of Culture 2008.

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