The drama surrounding the annual Turner Prize kicked off this morning in the United Kingdom, where the four shortlisted artists were revealed at the Tate Britain. Now we must wait until December 2 to see which of these artists gets the glorious prestige and cash prize of £40,000 (about $61,850). This year’s nominees are Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Tino Sehgal, Laure Prouvost, and David Shrigley.
While it has some of the strictest qualifications of any of the high-profile arts prizes out there — the awardee must be British, must be under the age of 50, and must have exhibited in the past 12 months — the prize always illuminates an interesting breadth of art in its small shortlist. (The prize’s namesake, the eccentric J.M.W. Turner, did start to fall further into depression and mania in his 50s after the death of his father, but this development in his life likely doesn’t have much to do with the age cut-off of the prize.) Let’s look at who got onto the lucky list this year:
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye of London is the first black woman to be honored on the Turner shortlist, recognized for an exhibition at Chisenhale Gallery called Extracts and Verses. Yiadom-Boakye’s work has also been shown around New York a lot in recent years, including at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 2010-11, and at the Ungovernables triennial at the New Museum in 2012. Her figurative oil paintings of fictional black characters reflect the style of old world portraiture in rich hues.
Tino Sehgal, who was born in London and works in Berlin, is recognized for a couple of experiences he designed last year. The constructed encounters with performance include “This Variation” at documenta 13, where in a dark space performers danced, spoke, and acted out set movements around a wandering audience. Similarly at the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, his “These Associations” had 50 participants each day who walked, ran, and sometimes played or broke into chants in the vast industrial space.
Born in France and based in London, Laure Prouvost’s work with film and installations in the Tate and Grizedale Arts commission Wantee, as well as her Farfromwords exhibition for the Max Mara Art Prize for Women, are being singled out for their intriguing narratives and strong visuals. Mud and an imaginary grandfather were at the center of Wantee, and the equally immersive Farfromwords drew from an aesthetic of sensual pleasures with women letting waterfalls crash over their skin, evoking a classical idyllic visit to the Mediterranean.
Glasgow-based David Shrigley, who recently had a solo show at Anton Kern Gallery in New York, was selected for his sardonic Brain Activity at Hayward Gallery. The exhibition of playful work with a dark edge, like the above taxidermy dog proclaiming his lifelessness, was accompanied by an actual tombstone etched with a grocery list, a decapitated ostrich, shaky drawings of strange situations, and documentation of interventions like putting a “for sale” sign in a river. Obviously, the Turner Prize has a bit of love for dark humor.