In Brief

Turner Prize Will Be Split Among All Four Nominees, at Their Request

Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Helen Cammock, Tai Shani, and Oscar Murillo told the judges in a letter, “The politics we deal with differ greatly, and for us it would feel problematic if they were pitted against each other.”

Tai Shani, Turner Prize 2019, courtesy Turner Contemporary and the artist. Photograph by David Levene 25/9/19

The four nominees for the 2019 Turner Prize will share this year’s award after collectively urging the judges not to choose a single winner. Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Helen Cammock, Tai Shani, and Oscar Murillo wrote a joint letter to the prize’s panel of judges asking to make the unusual move in the name of “commonality, multiplicity and solidarity,” according to the Guardian.

“The politics we deal with differ greatly, and for us it would feel problematic if they were pitted against each other, with the implication that one was more important, significant or more worthy of attention than the others,” the four artists wrote.

The judges unanimously agreed to the nominees’ plea, setting a precedent in the prize’s 35-year history. The decision was revealed today by British Vogue’s editor-in-chief, Edward Enniful, at a ceremony in the city of Margate, where the winners’ works are on view at the Turner Contemporary through January 12, 2020. The £40,000 (~$52,000) that comes with the prestigious prize will be equally split among the four winners.

In their letter, the artists continued: “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 announcement comes shortly before the UK’s general election on December 12. At the ceremony, Shani wore a political necklace with a message to voters, reading: “Tories Out.”

In a statement, the prize’s judges said: “We are honoured to be supporting this bold statement of solidarity and collaboration in these divided times. Their symbolic act reflects the political and social poetics that we admire and value in their work.”

News update 12/5/19 12:16pm EST: The Turner Prize quartet of winners — Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Helen Cammock, Tai Shani, and Oscar Murillo — say they “hijacked” the prestigious award with their request to split the prize, the Guardian reported.

According to the article, the four winners suggested the idea to Tate Britain, which oversees the prize, this past summer and it was reviewed by the organization’s trustees. The jurors met on the day of the announcement, as they usually do, when they were officially presented with the artists’ letter requesting the prize be split. The jurors accepted and the artists’ offer, knowing that ignoring the artists’ rhetoric of “commonality, multiplicity and solidarity” would be unpopular.

In an interview with the Guardian, Cammock called the move “a considered hijack.” Shani added that the move was “actually quite a bureaucratic process.”

“We didn’t have very high hopes of it going through,” Shani continued. “This idea of Mutiny on the Bounty – that wasn’t quite how it panned out.”

“If any of us had individually won, I would have felt I was betraying my own work and ideas — if we are indeed really talking about solidarity,” Murillo added.

Hamdan concluded: “If anyone gets what we do as individual artists, they will get why this decision had to be made.”

Correction 12/6/19 11:36am EST: This article has been amended to reflect that while the jury was presented with the artists’ official letter on Tuesday, December 3, they had been informed about the request to split the prize by  Tate Britain’s director and chairman of the Turner Prize jury, Alex Farquharson, in advance of their decision.

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