Read anything in the press at the moment about this year’s Turner Prize and it’s as tediously familiar as every other year. Once more journalists can put their feet up, and dust off an age-old headline formula: [description of work] + [it must be the Turner Prize again]. Yawn.
This year’s winner, Glasgow-based artist, Martin Boyce conforms perfectly. As well as the other objects that make up his entry, it is his slanting rubbish bin that provides the press with all the ammunition they need. Cue the headlines: “What a load of rubbish”, “Trash”, or the Daily Mail’s effort this year: “Who could mistake this rubbish bin for art? It must be the Turner Prize judges”. Yawn. Although, it’s well worth a read of the Daily Mail article for sheer entertainment more than anything else – I particularly enjoyed reader Pat from Herts’s comment at the bottom of the article: “It should be called the Stupid Prize”.
It’s not art, it’s Emperor’s New Clothes, I couldn’t hang that on my wall, are common sentiments about the nominations every year. The Prize has generated the same media and public reaction since its inception in 1984. We’ve had five Prime Ministers, seven Olympic Games, and invented the internet since then, yet still the same lines are churned out each December when it’s Turner Prize time.
The type of conceptual art that is synonymous with the Turner Prize stems back further than 1984; perhaps most famously to 1917 and Marcel Duchamp who took a urinal, signed it with the alias R. Mutt and titled it Fountain. That was almost a century ago. Conceptual art is as much of an institution to us now as the work of the JMW Turner was for people in 1917.
The Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead took over this year in the start of a move that will see the award alternate annually between a non-LondonUKvenue and its traditional home of TateBritain. Such is the current brand value of the award it makes sense to promote it and Tate further afield as well as generate more prestige and income to the hosting galleries around theUK. Over 100,000 people have visited the Tyneside gallery since the nominees’ exhibits were open in October; bringing an unfathomable increase in usual gate receipts.
At a time following the drastic cuts made by the government to the funding of arts and art schools, slanting rubbish bins or not – 100,000 people? It must be the Turner Prize again.
By Edward Lines