Londonist Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
As well as being one of the most prestigious contemporary art awards, the Turner Prize is known for courting controversy and challenging people's perceptions of what constitutes art. But this year's showing simply does not live up to that description. Especially when you consider that past finalists have included exciting and divisive offerings such as Chris Ofili's portraits made from elephant dung, Tracey Emin's unmade bed and, last year, David Shrigley's urinating mannequin.
But it's all change this year as the prize has decided to go serious, pick four relative unknowns and provide a very academically-oriented selection of artists — but is this a good thing?
Visitors will spend a lot of the time in darkness this year as there are three video artists in the running, though it's quite annoying to find that we could hear the narration from adjacent videos when we were trying to focus on one.
James Richards uses found material, from Tokyo library books where the images have been censored, to videos of make-up application, but the individual threads of his work never come together as a cohesive whole.
Tris Vonna-Michell is arguably the weakest of the four with his rapid-fire narration of a story based in Berlin which is incredibly hard to follow. Duncan Campbell completes the triumvirate of video artists with his film on the treatment of African artefacts by the British Museum — a point well made but in a very long-winded fashion. It also seems to be retreading an argument about the pillaging of African culture that has been highlighted many times before.
Visitors will both literally and metaphorically step into the light for the work of Ciara Phillips. Her prints cover the walls, from floor to ceiling, and the word OK is present in massive letters in this affirming exhibition.
Phillips is far and away the strongest of the four finalists, but frankly that's not saying much. However, there is a lot of expectation surrounding Campbell, while our gut feeling suggests Richards will sneak it.
This is one of the weakest fields we've seen for the Turner Prize and it's further hurt by the fact that the work of many of these artists is rather inaccessible. Works that lack controversy and are very hard for an audience to engage with means there is very little reason for people to pay to see this exhibition — it lacks adventure and fails to challenge viewers.
Turner Prize 2014 is on at Tate Britain until 4 January 2015. Tickets are £11 for adults, concessions available.
Also still on at Tate Britain is the fantastic Late Turner and the immense installation by Phyllida Barlow.