What the Turner Prize says about contemporary art


If this is art, then art is doomed.

On Monday, Channel 4 once again brought us the Turner Prize, the only annual winter farce that doesn’t make anybody laugh. I remember being told about the Turner Prize when I was doing my A-Levels, and I didn’t give a damn back then, mainly because I didn’t truly understand the gravity of art back then. Today, I’m doing a rather intensive art course in college, and have a broader understanding of art, and indeed the nature of artistic interpretation and expression, and I still don’t value the Turner Prize that much, so when I decided to check it out this year, I found that it was just as banal and pretentious as I remember it.

The award ceremony itself was essentially a round of Lauren Laverne and other pretentious commentators polluting the air with their self-important nonsense, all while I wonder “didn’t Lauren Laverne used to be a comedian?”. Seriously, Lauren Laverne used to be a TV comedian, but she’s been lending her voice to anything that pays, and now she’s become another celebrity in an already crowded industry. If that wasn’t enough, they brought Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon to announce the winner (an odd choice, since she isn’t even relevant anymore). Yet again, the shortlisted artworks were quite banal, a few of them weren’t even close to art, and the winner wasn’t even an artist. This year’s Turner Prize went to a direct action collective known as Assemble, who use art to make a tangible difference to the community. For me, the problem is that they completely missed the point of art entirely.

Of course, the Turner Prize is known for creating controversy, if only for a short moment until we look again and realize that the art is actually quite banal. Prize winners are always controversial, but Assemble are the lowest of the low because they take “anything is art” so far that it can no longer be called art in its truest sense, and I say this because they’re using art the wrong way. For me, art is about the creative expression of the world within us (which includes the outside world). Assemble, meanwhile, believe that if art cannot make a tangible difference to society, then it’s only for rich people. This misguided view of art sounds like the philosophy of an art collective who got their education from a Benetton ad.

That a group of architects had won an art prize signals the latest low point of contemporary art. The art world seems to have lodges its head so far up its own ass that it is has forgotten the validity of visual art, or at least that’s what I get from the Turner Prize, whose jury seemed to have universally decided that the medium of visual art is now irrelevant. Granted, this could just be the reason why the Turner Prize is a complete joke, but that’s besides the point. The fact remains that the art world is in such a sorry state that it’s now going through contortions to convince gullible art patrons that there is artistic value in the work of a bunch of community architects who aren’t even remotely interested in art. If that’s what’s happening in the art world now, then it says something very awful about just how little this country values art.


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