After the decision to let four artists share the 2019 prize, does the Turner Prize have a future?
Rebecca Atkinson, 05.12.2019
Nominated artists asked for statement of solidarity in a time of division
The decision to award the Turner Prize 2019 to all four nominated artists has raised questions over the future of the prize and the appropriateness of a "singular" artist prize.
On Tuesday evening, it was announced that prize would be awarded collectively to Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Helen Cammock, Oscar Murillo, and Tai Shani after they wrote a letter to the judges requesting a statement of solidarity and collaboration in a time of “political crisis” and division.
They wrote: “At this time of political crisis in Britain and much of the world, when there is already so much that divides and isolates people and communities, we feel strongly motivated to use the occasion of the prize to make a collective statement in the name of commonality, multiplicity and solidarity – in art as in society.”
The jury of the 2019 Turner Prize unanimously decided to honour the artists’ request.
Speaking at the award ceremony at the Turner Contemporary in Margate, Maria Balshaw, the director of Tate, said art “expresses the urgent issues of our time” and is “fearlessly committed to social change”.
On Twitter, some celebrated the sentiment behind the decision, while others complained it undermined the prize’s concept to celebrate “a British artist”.
It also raised the question: what does the future hold for the Turner Prize in 2020 and beyond?
Is the idea of an art competition with a singular winner an outdated concept?— Museums Association (@MuseumsAssoc) December 5, 2019
Alex Farquharson, the director of Tate Britain and chair of the Turner Prize jury, told Museums Journal, that there were no plans to review the prize for 2020.
"The Turner Prize has reshaped itself in a number of ways over its 35 years, and through those shifts it's sustained itself and kept itself relevant," he added. "No doubt this was an interesting and challenging department from the norm, but one that the jury felt was incredibly timely, and reflective of the four artists' work and the way they approached the exhibition."
The Evening Standard’s critic Ben Luke wrote in his editorial response to the four winners: “[…] while this gesture is charged by the passion of a particular moment, it has huge implications for the future.
"It places the Tate and subsequent Turner Prize artists and juries in an invidious position. How can they now continue as normal?”
The Turner Prize will return to Tate Britain in London in 2020.