Stephen Sutcliffe and Graham Eatough with Yinka Shonibare, who presented the award. Image: Tom Horak

The Whitworth wins £40,000 contemporary art prize

Rebecca Atkinson, 25.11.2015
Gallery will commission a film celebrating Anthony Burgess’s Enderby novels
The Whitworth gallery in Manchester and the artists Stephen Sutcliffe and Graham Eatough have won the £40,000 Contemporary Art Society Award 2015.

The prize will enable the artists to create a two-part film based on the first and last chapters of Anthony Burgess’s Enderby novels, which deal with how artists are remembered.

The film will explore the cultural figure of the artist, and ideas of authenticity and posterity through theatrical performances and filmic collage.

Burgess, who wrote in his biography that he was ejected from the Whitworth for “sucking on the marble breast of a Greek goddess”, grew up in the Moss Side area of Manchester. The city will mark the centenary of the author’s birth in 2017, with a premier of Sutcliffe and Eatough’s film forming the centrepiece of the celebrations.

"The proposal stood out as a project we all want to see, for its inventiveness and genuine connections to Manchester through Burgess,” said Caroline Douglas, the director of the Contemporary Art Society.

“We are delighted to be supporting these artists at what appears to be a moment of significant development in their careers and to enable the commission of a work whose themes will resonate with the Whitworth’s existing collections.”

Sutcliffe and Eatough will work with the arts agency LUX to promote the work.

"Through film, theatre, literature and collage techniques the new work will address perennial questions about the figure of the artist and ideas of authenticity and posterity,” said Michael Archer, an art critic who was on the award panel.

The Whitworth was shortlisted for the prize in June.

The other shortlisted museums were the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art and Pablo Helguera, for a commission to redesign the gallery’s third floor as a space for wellbeing and personal empowerment; Amgueddfa Cymru (National Museum Wales) and Artes Mundi, for a proposal to commission Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson to produce a performance and film installation; and the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery in Leeds and the Henry Moore Institute, to commission Katrina Palmer to create an audio artwork.

The £40,000 Contemporary Art Society Award is supported by the Sfumato Foundation.