Turner Prize Nominees a Surprise, As Always

But no disappointments.

Duncan Campbell Portrait Courtesy Tate

Duncan Campbell Portrait
Courtesy Tate

Those who were expecting a Who’s Who of the British art world are in for a surprise. This year’s Turner Prize nominees Duncan Campbell, Ciara Phillips, James Richards, and Tris Vonna-Michell are more artists’ artists promoted by cutting-edge organizations than crowd-pullers with big gallery–machines behind them. And that’s for the best.

It’s very much in keeping with the mood in the British art world, which has tended to favor understated, DIY approaches recently (perhaps in reaction to the Young British Artists overload of the 1990s and noughties). Last year’s winner was the underdog. French-born Laure Prouvost, best known for her endearing bric-a-brac videos and installations, beat the stars Tino Sehgal and David Shrigley.

Virtually all of the artists selected this year could be described as underdogs, but this doesn’t mean that those in the running for the £25,000 cash prize don’t come with a solid pedigree.

Like every year, artists are chosen on the strength of one or several solo shows held during the preceding year. The Glasgow-based Campbell has been selected for It for Others, a filmic response to Alain Resnais and Chris Marker’s cult film Statues Also Die from 1953, which was shown in the Scottish pavilion at the last Venice Biennale.

Ciara Phillips, Workshop (2010-ongoing) Photo: Daniel Brooke, Courtesy the artist and Kendall Koppe, Glasgow

Ciara Phillips, Workshop (2010-ongoing)
Photo: Daniel Brooke, Courtesy the artist and Kendall Koppe, Glasgow

Another Glaswegian, Ciara Phillips, was noted for her solo exhibition Workshop (2010-ongoing) at The Showroom in London. Politics and collaboration are fully part of the Irish Canadian’s practice, which focuses on print processes of all kinds, from community workshops to fanzines.

It has taken decades for the Turner Prize to include performance artists. Spartacus Chetwynd (now known as Marvin Gaye Chetwynd) was the first in 2012, paving the way for raconteur extraordinaire Vonna-Michell, nominated for his exhibition Postscript II (Berlin), shown at Jan Mot in Brussels.

Like Campbell, this year’s youngest nominee Richards secured his place while in Venice, in his case as part of Massimiliano Gioni’s Encyclopedic Palace at the Arsenale. Richards went from winner of the Film London Jarman Award to Turner Prize nominee in the space of two years–a spectacular, and very promising rise.

James Richards, Still from Rosebud (2013) Courtesy the Artist, Cabinet, London and Rodeo, Istanbul

James Richards, Still from Rosebud (2013)
Courtesy the Artist, Cabinet, London and Rodeo, Istanbul

The shortlisted artists will show new works side by side in an exhibition opening at Tate Britain on September 30. The decision of the jury, which this year include Artists Space’s Stefan Kalmár, Spike Island’s Helen Legg, Glasgow International’s Sarah McCrory, and Wiels’ Dirk Snauwaert, will be announced during a ceremony at Tate Britain on December 1, 2014.

The Turner Prize attracts attention to contemporary art in Britain like no other event. Every single newspaper suddenly has an art critic in house, and streams of visitors come to the show, seen as a barometer of artistic development. It should be a place where those not belonging to the nomadic art crowd discover something new. Surprised, some will be, but with such a strong selection, very few will be disappointed.

Tris Vonna-Michell, OU: Finding Chopin (2012), Performance at Roskilde Museum of Contemporary Art, Roskilde January 13, 2012 Courtesy the Artist, Cabinet, London and Jan Mott, Brussels

Tris Vonna-Michell, OU: Finding Chopin (2012), Performance at Roskilde Museum of Contemporary Art, Roskilde January 13, 2012
Courtesy the Artist, Cabinet, London and Jan Mott, Brussels


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