The Turner Prize is no stranger to controversy. Some might say it even courts it. In 2002, the then Culture Minister, Kim Howells, called it “conceptual bullshit.” The Prize has been won before by Gilbert and George, Damian Hirst, for his pickled shark, and by Chris Ofili for his elephant dung paintings. The winner, who trousers £25,000, will be announced on 3rd December 2012, and an exhibition of their work will open at the Tate Britain on 2nd October.
Adrian Searle on The Guardian thinks that on the whole it’s a good list; Mark Hudson on The Daily Telegraph thought that it wasn’t a patch on the “glory days”, adding that what the prize really does is offer “relatively polite avant-gardism.” When it experiements, it refers to the past; when it’s humorous, it has a knowing air. The contenders are “worthy”, though, but “if none of these artists offer much in the way of edge, that’s because modern art lost that sense of automatic confrontation and difficulty that powered it through the 20th century a good twenty years ago.” Not so, said Rachel Campbell-Johnston in The Times. It’s like being taken over by clowns. “This is a shortlist for a world that knows things have gone wrong. ”
Penelope Curtis, chair of the judges: “You have to spend a lot of time with the works. None of them are something you can ‘get’ in a few minutes, you have to spend an hour or two with these pieces in order to really understand them whether that’s film or drawing or performance,” quoted on The Guardian
So who’s up for it this year? No painters, but a good mix of conceptual artists.
The man who draws a fictional city called Nobson Newtown is “perhaps the most traditional,” said Annemarie Lopez on The Week. He’s the frontrunner, said Adrian Searle in The Guardian. His pictures of towns are made up of “faecal people and surreal architecture.” He’s “engaging, lively and peculiar.” He ought to win.
She’s a 38-year-old former anthropologist, said Lopez, who remakes scenes from The Incredible Hulk, Star Wars and Michael Jackson videos, with a little help from her friends, family, and papier-mâché. Searle thought she was “totally oddball and off the wall, often in a good way.” She can be “ramshackle,” but this wasn’t a problem for Hudson, who called her “fetchingly shambolic” – though her work can be “opaque.” And that’s not to mention, said Mark Brown on The Guardian, that she called herself after the gladiator “to annoy people”, claims to live “in a south-London nudist colony”, and “reinvented Jabba the Hutt as a smooth-talking ladies’ man.”
The Glasgow artist has made a film about R D Laing, the Sixties counter-culture psychiatrist. Searle thought that Fowler was often “attracted to marginal figures and lost souls, like the composer Cornelius Cardew.” Fowler’s work is “atmospheric, melancholy and sometimes rather moving” – although, added Hudson, he seems to go out of his way to “make things difficult for the viewer.”
Lopez said that Price “makes non-narrative, actor-free films about objects in consumer culture.” Searle thought that her work was “seductive art”, “sculpture by other means.” He had a reservation, though: “Sexy though her art is, it can also be a tad academic.” Hudson said: “Imagine Fritz Lang’s ‘Metropolis’ restaged to a disco beat using the contents of your kitchen cupboard and you’ll get an idea of the feel of her work.”
Periscope Fact: Elizabeth Price used to be in a “twee” guitar group called Talulah Gosh
What to think about it all
“Well, there’s a heavy strain of art theory and academic thought,” said Matthew Cain on his Channel 4 blog. “There’s a focus on the technical processes behind each piece – and a foregrounding of the sheer hard work that it took to make it.” There’s a lot of research, and many “references to art history.” And there’s a lot of “the kind of bricolage which is very much representative of what’s going on right now in the wider context of contemporary art.” And while some of it “might seem more intellectually challenging than usual,” it “doesn’t mean that it isn’t also fun. And if you don’t believe me, take a quick look at the work of Spartacus Chetwynd. And see if you can stop yourself breaking into a smile.”