Gateshead, 6 December 2011, Art Media Agency (AMA).
The famous Turner Prize evening ceremony took place on 5 December, at the Baltic Gallery in Gateshead. The host of the ceremony, and famous photographer in vogue, Mario Testino awarded this year’s Turner Prize to sculptor Martin Boyce, along with£25,000. Since its creation in 1984, the Turner Prize has become one of the most talked about and frequently controversial prizes of the English contemporary scene – as described by its organisers.
Martin Boyce, born in Glasgow in 1967, is among the generation of Scottish artists who emerged in the 90s. His modernist artworks, which cross the borders between sculpture, design and architecture, won the judges’ votes over creations by the other three finalists; Georges Shaw, Karla Black and Hilary Lloyd. Boyce’s victory made bookmakers extremely happy, as he was favourite to win this year’s prize. For the first time, the Turner Prize moved away from the capital, and took place in the Baltic Center for Contemporary Art in Gateshead. The finalists’ works are currently being exhibited in the Baltic Center, since 28 October up until 8 January 2012, and welcomed over 28,000 visitors in just one week.
The Turner Prize was founded by a group called “The Patrons of New Art”, formed in 1982 with the intention of opening the Tate Gallery’s collections to contemporary art. Organisers named the prize after Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851), describing that they wanted to award “a person who, according to the jury, contributed greatly to the art in the United Kingdom in the past twelve months”. That decision seemed particularly appropriate, considering the controversial position that the British painter stood in the art scene of his time, and the position he still holds today in the history of art. Moreover, Turner had thought about creating a prize for young artists himself, which justified once again the name of the Turner Prize.
The rules have changed over the years for instance, with the age restriction – the winner must be under 50 years old – which was only established in 1991. Also, since 1987, an artist who has been nominated twice for two consecutive years, cannot be nominated the following year. As for the financial reward, it depends on the event sponsors: it hovered between £10,000 during the first years and then £40,000 between 2004 and 2007, when Gordon’s Gin was the main sponsor of the Turner Prize. Usually, the finalists’ names (four since 1991) are revealed in July, and their works are exhibited at Tate Britain from October to January. The jury, composed of curators and art critics, theoretically pick artists from a panel previously selected by the British audience, invited to judge the most important figures of the country’s annual creation. Nonetheless, the audience’s influence on the jury’s final choice is not easily measurable; some call it insignificant, including Lynn Barber who was a judge in 2006.
If any category of artists can be nominated, the Turner Prize was particularly associated with conceptual art, “innovating” mediums (including video art), installations and unconventional sculptures. That tendency to Nonconformism made the prize successful, but also largely spurred up a debate, and the selection of winners didn’t help ease the tension (for instance, victory of very unpopular Malcolm Morley in 1984). The first artist to ever receive the Turner Prize, left England for over 25 years and didn’t even bother to claim his reward.
However, among the particularly memorable tags on an artist’s resumé, being the winner of the Turner Prize is an outstanding one. A lot of the nominees and winners belong to the generation of Young British Artists, born in the 90s, which is the object of an intense media exhibition. Being the winner of the Turner Prize obviously opens doors to institutions, museums, major galleries, but also auction houses. The price of their art works increases significantly in the market after a nomination and, above all, if rewarded with the Turner Prize. Many of the previous winners and finalists, are now major figures in the current scene in the UK and abroad: Glenn Brown (nominated in 2000), Chris Ofili (one of the rare painters to win in 1998), Anthony Gormley (winner in 1994), Damien Hirst (nominated in 1992 and winner in 1995), Street Artist, Banksy (nominated in 2002), sculptor Tony Cragg (nominated in 1985 and winner in 1988), Grayson Perry (winner in 2003), Anish Kapoor (winner in 1991) and Tracey Emin ( nominated in 1999). All of the artists mentioned see the value of their artworks increase by thousands of pounds.