It’s time again for England’s annual Turner Prize exhibit, the rare art show that is discussed as much in Britain’s notoriously yellow tabloids as it is in the actual art press. Organized by the Tate Modern and technically open to all British visual artists under the age of 50, the prize has come to favor conceptual artists and can always be counted on to deliver some controversy-courting, eye-catching entries.
The award is given to one of four nominees based on the strength of the work they’ve displayed in the past year, and a selection of that work is collected in the annual exhibit. In addition to the actual award, there seems to be an unofficial competition for which piece will garner the most press attention.
Tracey Emin’s infamous installation “My Bed” (literally just her messy bed transported to an art gallery setting) didn’t win the award when it was displayed. She lost out that year to a video by Steve McQueen, who would go on to win Oscar gold for directing Twelve Years a Slave. However “My Bed” remains one of the most emblematic works associated with the competition thanks in part to the headlines it generated.
After a press preview this week, that attention garnering award seems to be going to Anthea Hamilton‘s “Project for a Door.” The installation includes a giant sculpture of a pair of golden hued butt cheeks clasped ever so delicately by a pair of giant hands. Inspired by a photograph by Italian artist Gaetano Pesce, Hamilton originally intended for the giant butt to serve a doorway. Not for the world’s most naughty gay club, but rather for a New York City apartment building. Perhaps unsurprisingly that never came to pass, and now, here it is in an art gallery.
Coincidentally, this is the first time the Tate will allow visitors to take photographs of the exhibition, and is encouraging viewers to share those images on social media. Which means the London Instagram scene will likely be flooded with pictures of people posing in front of the giant arse (as they say over there).
Instagrams like these.
Hamilton’s entry also includes a brick print suit against a brick wall.
Which, of course, just reminds us of the Moschino suit Solange wore in her “Losing You” video.
Other highlights include Michael Dean’s sculpture featuring £20,435.99 worth of pennies. That’s just one penny removed from the British poverty line for a family of four. Dean takes inspiration from his writing, and his assemblage sculptures are influenced by the shape of letters. Though the result isn’t intended to be read as actual written language.
Helen Marten’s entrants are sculptural collages meant to be “poetic visual puzzles.”
The final entrant is Josephine Pryde. She’s mostly known for her photography, but her exhibition also includes a giant toy train. The train at the center of the piece entitled “The New Media Express in a Temporary Siding (Baby Wants To Ride)” doesn’t move. The Tate website explains it “is temporarily static, elevated on a platform and awaiting its next move.” The cars of the train feature work from graffiti artists that live in the various cities where the piece has previously been displayed.
Despite the awards controversy, the winner can often find themselves elevated to international art prominence. Previous Turner Prize recipients include Damien Hirst, Wolfgang Tillmans, Anish Kapoor and Martin Creed.
There’s no telling whether Hamilton, Dean, Pryde or Marten will be the one to join that list, but Hamilton certainly has already won that unofficial Daily Mail headline race.