The Turner Prize
November 1, 2002 2:20 AM   Subscribe

The Turner Prize nominations are out. Britain's culture minster Kim Howells calls it "cold, mechanical conceptual bullshit". indeed a couple of years ago, Chris Ofili's pictures using dried elephant dung won? (He's the guy who caused a fuss with Rudy Giuliani.) So the annual debate in the british media has begun - "yes, but is it art?"
posted by brettski (17 comments total)
No. Next question?
posted by RavinDave at 2:34 AM on November 1, 2002

Howells is obviously a little dim, surely he must see that this is all grist to the Turner's PR mill, which relies on a bit of faux controversy every year.

The Turner prize committee must be delighted that a significant New Labour figure has risen to the bait this year, rather than the usual Sir Bufton Tufton's from Daily Mail land.
posted by johnny novak at 2:38 AM on November 1, 2002

Hey, johnny novak - Sir Bufton Tufton is from Daily Torygraph/Spectacularlyboring land!

On topic, I wonder what Brian Sewell is saying about all this...
posted by MiguelCardoso at 2:42 AM on November 1, 2002

Well to make an accurate assessment of just who might get this (well... paycheck frankly)prize, here are the contestants.

Let’s see:
1. Fiona: Porn and giant "fullstops". Language fails us.
2. Liam: Bodily and intellectual perception of an altered environment. (Psst….he’s a critic).
3. Keith: How things come into being. Wall drawings.
4. Cath: Film upside down. Photos.

"Ugh", "snore", "hmm", and "again already?"

I would choose "hmm" but I'm bettin' on the pr0n.

Poor Tate. After Madonna hosted the awards ceremony who will it be this year? I wonder if Tom Green is busy...
posted by hama7 at 2:46 AM on November 1, 2002

I loved Martin Creed's "The Lights Going On and Off" last year. Seriously.

Out of this year's entries I would like to see Liam Gillick get it, but I don't rate his Tate installation much and I reckon Fiona Banner is more likely to win.
posted by digiboy at 2:52 AM on November 1, 2002

Sewell is usually too smart to fall into the trap of criticising them outright, but as I don't live in London anymore I don't have access to his Evening Standard "column" any longer. i.e. there aren't any thrice read copies lying around free.

Yes, it's probably on the Interweb somewhere, but if you think I'm going to spend my time actively searching for Brian Sewell's opinions, then you've got another thing coming.
posted by johnny novak at 2:58 AM on November 1, 2002

I notice that three of the four contestants went to Goldsmiths, not that I want to suggest a conspiracy or anything of the sort... but I don't think one should take the Turner prize too seriously. It's not really representative of anything other than the sort of artists who win Turner prizes. Kim Howells was himself an art student at Hornsey in its radical peak in the late sixties, and he certainly ain't stupid (I knew him when he was Press Office for the Miner's Union in Wales) but ambition can blunt intellect - he stated a couple of years ago that what was wrong with the British film industry was that it didn't make enough movies like 'Independence Day.'
However on this occasion I have a horrible feeling I might agree with him.
posted by rolo at 3:27 AM on November 1, 2002

In defence of Britain's modern artists. From the Financial Times.

"Different year, same reflex. The Turner Prize is here so it is time, once more, for someone to assert that British artists are not as good as they used to be. Those who promote their work must also be denounced, since they are obviously intent on nothing so much as the perpetration of a massive fraud on the British public."
posted by grimley at 5:36 AM on November 1, 2002

Interesting to see that the mirror came out in favour of this years shortlist, not the sort of thing you expect from a tabloid (the original article in the paper was larger and gave a positive review to each of the works).

A little yearly controversy is also a great way to put art on the front pages. Like it or loathe it, it's good to see that the general public are at least aware of the likes of Creed and Whiteread, and for that fact I'm glad the judges make most of their choices.

However, although I am an admirer of much contemporary conceptual work it does seem a shame that this prize is once again exclusively conceptual, and as usual any complaints about the choices are just seen as an ill educated attack on art in general as opposed to the chance for a discussion on the dominance of conceptual art (in the market place if no where else).

Thank god some people are still kicking up a fuss.
posted by ciderwoman at 6:49 AM on November 1, 2002

Yeah, I'm actually surprised by the tepidness of the group. They're all perfectly fine, technically talented artists (though I don't think anyone who's still mounting photographs to lightboxes in this day and age should be taken seriously, even though they're quite beautiful). And Gillick's rehash of modernist design as art also seems a bit dated. Tyson's work at least has an air of mystery, and at least he draws.

I miss seeing artists like Ofili in this: the near absence of anything with the imprint of the human hand makes for indeed a pretty cold body of work.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 7:05 AM on November 1, 2002

No. Next question?
posted by RavinDave at 2:34 AM PST on November 1

Aw haw haw! You sure "took the piss" out of . . . uh . . . something! I look forward to your book deal.

Because some--or even, arguably, most--modern art is silly and weird and lame is not to say that it all is. Most "art" is dreadful crap; we just remember and revere the good stuff.

I don't mind people getting irritated that they have to wade through a mire of rotten art to find the good stuff; I get bummed when people don't even bother to try.
posted by Skot at 8:22 AM on November 1, 2002

And as for Ofili -- among all the references to him as Elephant Dung Man, it's rarely mentioned how beautiful his paintings are when you see them in person. They're full of obsessively delicate drops of paint, glitter, and sequins, and they almost seem to glow. Even if they weren't interesting conceptually and content-wise -- which they usually are -- they'd still be great eye candy. (I'll note that I haven't seen "The Holy Virgin Mary," but some of his other works.)

The dung in his work is dried and lacquered, and no more "offensive" to me than a petrified bone would be. It's not like there are flies swarming around it or anything. (For that, call Damien Hirst.)
posted by lisa g at 9:06 AM on November 1, 2002

from what i hear, via a curator friend, the smart money is on Liam . but then again, there are official odds on this somewhere.
posted by asparagus_berlin at 9:22 AM on November 1, 2002

Of course it's art; but it's all so designy, so slick. Perhaps it's just the photos.
posted by DenOfSizer at 10:31 AM on November 1, 2002

Here's an image of Chris Ofili's, and a couple more. I don't think of actual elephant dung when I see them, but "crap" does oddly spring to mind.
posted by hama7 at 10:45 PM on November 1, 2002

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