For the First Time Ever, the Turner Prize Shortlist Is Comprised Entirely of Socially Engaged Art Collectives

One of the five shortlisted collectives will be announced as the winner in December.

Cooking Sections artists. Photo: Ruth Clark.

In a year marked by unprecedented hardships, collaboration and solidarity are the themes underlying this year’s Turner Prize and, for the first time, its shortlist consists entirely of art collectives focused on social change. 

Array Collective, Black Obsidian Sound System, Cooking Sections, Gentle/Radical, and Project Art Works are the five nominees announced this morning by Tate Britain. Notably, there are no painters or photo-based artists in the list. An exhibition of the artists’ work is planned for September at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry, U.K.

“One of the great joys of the Turner Prize is the way it captures and reflects the mood of the moment in contemporary British art,” said Alex Farquharson, director of Tate Britain and chair of the Turner Prize. “After a year of lockdowns, when very few artists have been able to exhibit publicly, the jury has selected five outstanding collectives whose work has not only continued through the pandemic but become even more relevant as a result.”  

B.O.S.S. artists Photo: Theodorah Ndovlu.

B.O.S.S. artists. Photo: Theodorah Ndovlu.

The winner of the Turner Prize, one of the most prestigious awards in the art world, will be announced December 1 and will be awarded £25,000. Each shortlisted collective will receive £10,000 each.

The Belfast-based Array Collective focuses on social issues affecting Northern Ireland. A recent public project addressed the decriminalization of abortion in Northern Ireland. Black Obsidian Sound System, also known by the acronym B.O.S.S., is a London-based collective that works across sound and installation, hosting musical events. The 18-member collective, which formed in 2018, is active within the QTIBPOC community and recently held a live workshop at Somerset House about building and maintaining sound systems.

Cooking Sections’ Daniel Fernández Pascual and Alon Schwabe are two London-based artists who look at ecology and geopolitics through the prism of food. Most recently, they have a project on view at the Tate that explores salmon farming. As a part of the project, the Tate agreed to remove farmed salmon from its menus across its U.K. venues.

Project Art Works, Siddharth Gadiyar, Phoenix Art Space, 2019 ©Project Art Works.

Project Art Works, Siddharth Gadiyar, Phoenix Art Space, 2019 ©Project Art Works.

Gentle/Radical, from Cardiff, consists of artists but also community workers, faith practitioners, and others focused on creating social change through art in Wales. A recent project, Doorstep Revolution, spotlighted the small community of Riverside during lockdown with a podcast and publication. 

Hastings-based Project Art Works is a group of “neurodiverse” artists who collaboratively create and disseminate art projects for and by “neurominorities.” In their 2019 film Illuminating the Wilderness, members of the collective, their families, and their caretakers explored a Scottish glen.

The prize this year is being juried by Farquharson; Aaron Cezar, director of the Delfina Foundation; Kim McAleese, program director at the Grand Union in Birmingham; actor Russell Tovey; and Zoé Whitley, director of London’s Chisenhale Gallery.

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