2019 Turner Prize winner(s) shake up the award’s norm

2019 Turner Prize winner(s) shake up the award’s norm
Turner Contemporary. Photo credit Richard Bryant.
Leading lights  -   Artists

In a surprise turn of events, the announcement of this year’s Turner Prize winner shocked everyone, perhaps most of all the person reading out the name…or names. Historically, the recipient of the prize is chosen from the four shortlisted artists. Going against the grain this year, the prize will be shared amongst the shortlisted artists: Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Helen Cammock, Tai Shani and Oscar Murillo.

‘Here’s something quite extraordinary,’ said Edward Enninful, editor of Vogue magazine, when he opened the envelope to announce the winner of the prize. ‘At a time of political division in Britain and conflict in much of the world, the artists wanted to use the occasion of the Turner Prize to make a strong statement of community and solidarity and have formed themselves into a collective.’ To share the prestigious award was the idea of the artists, themselves. They wrote to the jurors, which included Tate Britain director Alex Farquharson, director of Gasworks and the Triangle Alessio Antoniolli, director of Showroom Gallery Elvira Dyangani Ose, Turner Contemporary director Victoria Pomery, and writer Charlie Porter, for this year’s prize asking that they be recognized as joint winners.

In the end, the jurors agreed to the artists’ wishes and, as is usual with the Turner Prize, surprised the art world, albeit in a different way, with its decision on Tuesday morning during its Margate ceremony. According to the BBC, when Enninful read the jury’s unanimous decision, those in attendance gave a standing ovation. The prize traditionally dulls out £25,000 to the first prize winner and an additional £5,000 to each of the other shortlisted artists. This year, though it has not been announced exactly how they will divvy up or distribute the prize, the total £40,000 in winnings will be shared between the artists.

The letter written by the artists and given to jurors in part read:

‘None of us had met each other prior to the Turner Prize, however on our initial meeting in Margate, we quickly recognized the underlying shared ethos that runs across our otherwise very different practices […] At this time of political crisis in Britain and much of the world, when there is already so much that divides and isolates people and communities, we feel strongly motivated to use the occasion of the Prize to make a collective statement in the name of commonality, multiplicity and solidarity—in art as in society.’

Some have speculated that the move has essentially ended the Turner Prize and some have criticized the jurors for allowing a joint-winner situation. Meanwhile others have praised the artists for their choice, The Guardian’s Adrian Searle, for instance, wrote ‘“Good for them!” – subverting the Turner prize is what artists are meant to do.’

Read more about this year’s Turner Prize winners here.

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