The Turner Prize: A Brief Introduction to Film and Video (and Disappointment in 2016)

The Turner Prize A Brief Introduction to Film and Video and Disappointment in 2016.jpg
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In between the commencement of this year’s Festival de Cannes — arguably the most important showcase for European film and those that want to be photographed on yachts looking like they watch European film — and the news that Hollywood juggernaut Marvel Studios has just managed to gross over $10 billion — from a Cinematic Universe in which bromances are tested with less permanent repercussions than Bill Murray’s Phil Connors punching Ned Ryeson (Stephen Tobolowsky) square in the chops, ad nauseam, in Groundhog Day (1993) — another piece of film related news managed to slip out without as much of a paparazzi gilded fanfare: the shortlisted nominees for The Turner Prize 2016 were announced.

Set up in 1984, the prestigious Turner Prize is awarded each year to “a British artist under 50 for an outstanding exhibition or other presentation of their work in the twelve months preceding.” Previous (in)famous winners include the permanently besuited “living sculptures”, Gilbert and George; Anish Kapoor, whose recent work,Dirty Corner, has been described by the artist as a monumental building sized “vagina of a queen who is taking power”; Antony Gormley, known for his human figure statues (notably the Angel of the North) and that one time he got people to stand on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square — one of whom “pitched a tent, from which a live chicken and two blow-up dolls emerged”; Grayson Perry (and his female alter ego, “Claire”) whose work features an overly generous number of “scenes of child abuse, bondage and sadomasochism” but has more recently also turned to socially conscious tapestries and TV shows where The Common Man cries at the startling authenticity of it all; and Damien Hirst, the poster boy for the Young British Artists (YBAs) of the ‘90s and those with a Norman Bates predilection for bisecting animals for formaldehyde soaked display.

The Turner Prize, then, has always been seen as a bit wacky (it has been protested by Stuckist artists dressed as clowns), sometimes shocking (Chris Ofili’s 1998 elephant dung work can be challenging), and a tad controversial (Fiona Banner’s 2002 nomination for Arsewoman in Wonderland “is the transcript of a porn film printed in pink ink on a huge billboard”). Yet, The Turner Prize is also controversial in the way that a quick Google search will generate plenty of ostensibly feverish reactions. On closer inspection, nobody seems to be especially bothered (unless you are Prince Charles, who as part of his official remit to preserve the integrity of outdated institutions, believes the Turner has “contaminated the art establishment for so long.”)…


The full 2,800 word version of this essay is published at, where you can read the rest of the article for free.

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