Posted by: okathleen | May 14, 2008



The Turner Prize is no stranger to controversy. The very name Turner was a contentious issue for some time, however it was eventually accepted that Turner was, in his day, an artist whose own techniques courted criticism, and for this reason the name stuck. (I do wonder what he would make of this year’s shortlist. No painters for starters…)There was also much rumbling over the issue of a prize, and a competition, not to mention a sponsor. What does ‘made by people for people’ mean? Who ever made the installation below – didn’t make it for me. But then, who is it for? Commissions were and are taken for wealthy patrons, how does that affect the view of the artist and the content of the painting? One less chin, a little less cross-eyed, he who pays the painter plays the tune, but what happens when the painter paints for himself?  This issue has become more and more apparent during assignments. For whom are we writing? Who is the audience? Tone, style and content waver accordingly. ‘Art as articulating truth’, which was how judges described last year’s winner, is a fantastic statement. Whose art, and whose truth?

Ruth Clark Photography

“A mannequin perched on a toilet and a cartoon cat were among the artworks chosen on Tuesday to compete for the Turner Prize, a traditional flash point for controversy about British art, Reuters reported. No painters made the shortlist of four artists. The nominees were sculptors and visual artists: Runa Islam, Goshka Macuga, Cathy Wilkes and Mark Leckey. Mr. Leckey features cartoon characters in his work, Ms. Wilkes uses shop mannequins in many of her installations, Ms. Islam recreates cult movie scenes, and Ms. Macuga draws inspiration from the German horror film “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.”

Anticipating a hostile or derisive response from critics and newspapers, Stephen Deuchar, director of Tate Britain in London and chairman of this year’s Turner jury, said: “This is art made by people for people. What is vital about the Turner Prize is that it creates informed debate about art. People are not frightened to argue about its merits and demerits.”



 Deuchars defends the choice on a Radio 4 interview:



  1. What a curious way to ward off criticism in the tabloids … ‘art made by people for people’. Seems to me like he’s writing the headlines for the Mirror for them!

    Also seems to me that the awarding of ‘national’ prizes says more about the manufacture of a national identity/community than it does about art. And that’s why the tabloids always have a field day.

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