Ah the Turner Prize – it was practically invented to fit the age-old adage that ‘one man’s art is another man’s rubbish’. I don’t think I can name another prize in history which has provoked such scorn and controversy – not the Nobel Peace Prize or the Best Actor Academy Award, in fact, I think election results have been less hotly disputed.
But this year’s shortlist marks an end to the more ‘publicity grabbing’ entries of previous years – with Enrico David, Roger Hiorns, Lucy Skaer and Richard White all competing for the prestigious title and £25,000 prize money, awarded in December. And what makes them all so special, is their ‘recognisable’ art – Enrico is a described as a ’surrealist’, Roger as an ‘alchemist’, Lucy as a ‘draughtswoman’ and Richard as a ‘thinking man’s graffiti artist’; ensuring that there can be no complaints that this year’s nominees are ‘too intellectual’ unlike last year’s Mark Leckey and his cerebral ‘Industrial Lights and Magic’.
Among the pieces that helped to earn their nominations are a council flat coated in shimmering blue crystals, an exquisite watercolour of a bombed Hiroshima and various delicate geometric murals.
And the jury responsible for setting the standard for emerging British artistic talent includes Mariella Frostrup, the broadcaster, Charles Esche, the director of the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, and Stephen Deuchar, the director of Tate Britain and chairman of the jury.
Deuchar said that the six-hour discussion that preceded their selection of the shortlist “certainly did not begin with a postmortem on last year”. He said that the role of the prize was “to bridge the gap between the world of contemporary art, which some people say is difficult, impenetrable and closed, and the wider world of public art appreciation and engagement”.
With a legacy of pickled sharks and unmade beds, this year’s Turner Prize is giving contemporary art something of a make-over – celebrating more traditional mediums of artistic expression. We will keep you posted!