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2016 Turner Prize Nominees Revealed

Screen shot from Anthea Hamilton's Venice: Exploring Disco
Still from Anthea Hamilton’s “Venice: Exploring Disco” (screenshot by the author for Hyperallergic)

Contrary to Hyperallergic’s April Fool’s Day predictions, Syrian refugees are not included on the 2016 Turner prize shortlist, which was announced this week. The nominees do include the creator of a giant butt sculpture and an artist who convinced gallery attendees to ride around on a miniature train set.

Named for the Romantic painter J.M.W. Turner, the prize awards £25,000 ($36,119.38) to one British or Britain-based artist under the age of 50 for work in the last year. Founded in 1984, it’s among the most prestigious (and most groaned-at) prizes in the art world. You may have heard of past winners: They include the likes of Gilbert and George, Damien Hirst, Chris Ofili, Anish Kapoor, Gillian Wearing, and Susan Philipsz. Last year’s prize was awarded to the architecture collective Assemble.

This year’s nominees are Anthea Hamilton, Michael Dean, Helen Marten, and Josephine Pryde. Much of their work reflects “living in a world saturated in images under the ubiquitous influence of the internet,” Tate Britain’s director, Alex Farquharson, said in a statement. All four artists will show their work at a Turner prize exhibit running from September to January at the Tate Britain; the winner will be announced in December. Here’s a bit about each of them.

Anthea Hamilton

Every year, British tabloids react to the Turner Prize nominees with shock and horror. This year, the focus of the drama is Anthea Hamilton‘s work in her solo exhibition at SculptureCenter, New York, called Lichen! Libido! Chastity!, for which she was nominated. As the Daily Mail put it in their signature shocked-10-year-old voice, “Cheeky! Turner Prize hits new low as this year’s shortlist includes 10-metre high sculpture of a man grabbing his own BUTTOCKS.” This sculpture, called “Project for door (After Gaetano Pesce),” was inspired by a model made by Italian designer Gaetano Pesce in 1972. Originally intended to be a skyscraper doorway in which visitors would walk between the sculpted nude’s legs, the work was never realized. Here, Hamilton reinterprets the concept. Her installation, sculpture, video, and performance channel a background in fashion and avant-garde design. As the Tate puts it, she brings “a surrealist sensibility to popular culture and the mind-bending proliferation of stylised and sexualised imagery in the digital world.”

Josephine Pryde

The Northumberland-born Pryde, at 49, just made the Turner Prize’s age cutoff. Known for her work in photography and installation, she’s nominated for her solo exhibition Lapses in Thinking by the Person I am at CCA Wattis, San Francisco. The show consisted of photographs of hands, all with brightly painted nails, in contact with various touch-sensitive objects: lamps, tablets, phones, human chests. Viewers could choose to look at the photographs on foot, or to view them while riding a miniature train, scrawled with graffiti, that chugged around a track in the gallery.

Helen Marten

Marten, hailing from Macclesen, England, uses fabricated and found objects in her sculptures, tableaus, videos, and cartoony screen-printed paintings. She’s nominated for projects including “Lunar Nibs” at the 56th Venice Biennale and the solo exhibition Eucalyptus Let Us In at Green Naftali, New York. Exploring what Marten called “our vast gray milkshake of information,” these shows mostly consisted of maximalist sculptures made from materials like fur, rope, silk, sequins, rubber, and ceramics. “Reading her, and looking at her art, is like being trapped in a world created by a god who has used a John Ashbery poem or the Surrealist Manifesto as an instruction manual,” wrote Adrian Searle in a review of Marten’s work in the Guardian. “You have to go with it, or not go at all.”

Michael Dean

Hailing from Newcastle Upon Tyne, Michael Dean makes sculptures and installations that explore his interest in what press materials call “the physical manifestation of language.” He was nominated for his exhibitions Sic Glyphs at South London Gallery and Qualities of Violence at de Appel arts centre, Amsterdam. In Sic Glyphs, materials found in urban settings, from rebar on a building site to the corrugated metal of a shop shutter, became what Dean called a “typographical texty field or a fXXXing forest of physically abstracted versions of my writing.” He also prints books with his own invented typographies; some include patterns made from weed leafs.

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