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Turner Prize Winner Status, A Baptism By Fire?

December 10, 2014

ArtsGroup Exhibition | by Maxine Kirsty Sapsford


It has been a difficult year for the Turner Prize – The Times, The BBC and The Telegraph all expressed their disdain for the weak shortlist. But it does seem to be the case every year that the four contenders for Britain’s most anticipated art prize, just don’t seem to suffice. Whether it’s too radical, or too elementary, or too visceral; the Turner Prize always struggles to be well received. Critics wait with their teeth bared, ready to dissect each room before regurgitating their reasons to the public why this year is worse than the last.

 

A meeting this week with the artist Jeremy Deller a decade on from his own winning of the accolade had him introduced to us, and consequently by us to others as; “Winner of the Turner Prize 2004…” It sticks to the recipient, but in a way that seems to mature. It instantly categorises the artist through association but rather than being met by jeers, it is adorned upon Deller like a medal, elevating him to the ranks of someone to take note of and listen to.

 

Duncan Campbell, It for Others, 2013, 16mm film transferred to digital video , Courtesy the artist and Rodeo Gallery
Turner Prize 2014 winner Duncan Campbell, It for Others, 2013, 16mm film transferred to digital video , Courtesy the artist and Rodeo Gallery

 

It affords Deller an air of pedigree which had his audience transfixed. So despite the harsh criticism, it seems then that once the dust has settled and the next year’s list has been announced (and subsequently snubbed) that the previous Turner Prize winner somehow now begins to be taken seriously. The pack of critics move on and people forget the controversy of the show, but the artist who wins can set to work in the comforting knowledge that they now have the recognition and power they have always strived for. Winning the Turner Prize often leads to careers as respected curators, filmmakers, broadcasters, journalists and of course artists. Often it is for the intrigue – who wouldn’t want to know what an artist famous for recreating historical battles is doing a decade on from winning £25,000? Or say, a male potter in a dress, if that prize happens to have been the Turner Prize.

 

Yet what we hear of them often surprises when we consider how ill received their work was initially – these winners have gone on to great things. They are not the narcissistic charlatans that the public and tabloids like to make out. They are highly intelligent, compassionate and articulate, some have even become Oscar winners and documentary presenters and pioneers of social reform and, are still making brilliant art.

 

Duncan Campbell, Turner Prize installation shot - Duncan Campbell, It for Others, 2013, Copyright the artist, Courtesy Tate Photography
Turner Prize 2014 installation shot – Duncan Campbell, It for Others, 2013, Copyright the artist, Courtesy Tate Photography

 

This year’s winner Duncan Campbell, with his video piece It For Others, which explored the ideas behind artistic appropriation, seems perfectly ready to fill this role; taking his place in the long line of Turner Prize winners baptised by fire. His work feels highly researched, clever and engaging. He offers conversation on how concepts can be admired, explored and shared. His intelligence is compelling, and with the addition of Turner prize-winning status, the public are now ready to listen.

 

To find out more about this year’s Turner Prize at Tate Britain until 4 Jan 2015 go to www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/turner-prize-2014.

 

Harry Seymour