The Turner Prize for modern art, first awarded in 1984 is a celebration of modern, innovative, British art. Awarded annually to an artist born, living or working in the UK, aged 40 or under, the prize has caused much controversy over its 32 year history.
In 2016 Helen Marten, Anthea Hamilton, Josephine Pryde and Michael Dean all vie for the £25,000 prize, and the critical acclaim that accompanies it.
The Turner Prize Installations, housed at the Tate Britain, comprise of 4 rooms, one per artist. The £9.50 Student concession price does seem rather steep, particularly if the prize is designed, at least partially, to inspire a new generation of British artists!
The first room, belonging to Helen Marten was probably my least favourite, and left me feeling distinctly underwhelmed. Whilst the ornate, multisegmented insects hanging from the walls were visually appealing, striking they were not! I may be vaguely biased on this matter; the incessant screeching of the alarm signalled that, yet again, a small child in clumsy Lelly Kellys, playing hopscotch over the “Do Not Cross” line had narrowly avoided damaging the artwork, as her mother gazed on, disinterested.
Anthea Hamilton’s exhibition was the space I knew the most about before arriving. Based on her New York exhibition Anthea Hamilton: Lichen! Libido! Chastity! for which she was nominated, her Tate installation has attracted huge public attention, particularly for the ginormous butt pictured above. Countless selfies and photos flood the instagram hashtag with Project for a Door (the official name for the derriere in question) which was inspired by designer Gaetano Pesce’s plan for a New York doorway. Reactions from my fellow museum goers ranged from the very British embarrassment, to mildly amused through to 3 gleeful children, excited about this rather large ‘taboo’ presented before them. I found it oddly entrancing, and almost hard to look away.
The other half of Hamilton’s room is dominated by a floor to ceiling photo of the June London sky. In front of it hangs several silver chastity belts, decorated with rosemary, or with ornate carvings.
Room number 3; Designed by Josephine Pryde, this room is probably the simplest design, but in no way does this detract from the effectiveness. A Class 65 diesel train, decorated with graffiti, sits on tracks that span the length of the room, almost inviting the viewer to clamber aboard.
Around the room photographs adorn the wall, part of Josephine Pryde’s Hands “Für Mich”, mainly focused on, as the name would suggest, hands, sporting immaculate nail varnish. After the more explicit nature of Anthea Hamilton’s room Pryde’s room felt all together more soporific. The photos on the wall all contain a message about society and/or feminism, however they aren’t thrust into the face of the viewer, she simply allows you to seek the message if you wish.
The final room was arranged by Michael Dean. Probably my favourite room, the majority of floor space was taken up by a huge mound of pennies, £20,435.99 worth to be exact. Out of the pennies sprung a corregated steel family of 4, they gaze over the money that represents their poverty line. On completing the room Dean removed a single penny, effectively putting the family below the poverty line. Coming together with concrete sculptures, ink-died books, and seemingly random models of fists, this piece of art is a beautifully jumbled commentary on modern society, strongly influenced by Dean’s Newcastle upbringing.
Michael Dean’s art was definately the most disordered, and least ‘readable’ beyond the poignant carpet of coins; Ironic, as the starting point for his work is usually writing. The room was increadibly busy, with artwork popping up in unexpected locations on the floor, and narrow spaces for visitors to pass through, it certainly kept you on your toes!
Overall this was a great afternoon out, albeit fairly busy with limited space for people to move around between the pieces of artwork in some rooms.
Having spent £10 on the exhibition, being the cheap student I am, I obviously wanted to get the most out of my money, so I watched every film at the end, flicked through every book, and read every comment on the comment board. Whilst doing this I discovered that the artists had envisioned, or produced far more tactile pieces of work than we were allowed to engage in.
Anthea Hamilton had designed her suit and boots to be handled and felt, and yet we couldn’t enjoy this aspect of this exhibition. Josephine Pryde had intended visitors to her exhibition to ride on the train and from here enjoy the photos on the wall, and yet we just admired. Finally, Michael Dean initially allowed visitors to walk over his mound of coins, to feel the sea-like movement, and hear the metallic clatter.We could only observe, transfixed by the gleaming mass before us.
For modern art, tactility can often form a large dimension of the experience, and yet this was taken away from us; how then can we truly judge the art work? Isn’t it unfair, too, for the artists who worked and laboured, only to have their greatest works admired only in 3D, instead of its full 4D glory?
I really hope in future the Tate will allow artists, and visitors to produce, and engage in more immersive pieces, and truly allow us to connect. Especially if they’re gonna charge us a tenner for it.
The Turner Prize Installations are running at the Tate Britain until 2 January 2017 . Price range from £9.50 to £12