Has The Turner Prize Taken A Turn For The Better?

Turner Prize, Tate Britain ★★★☆☆

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 16 months ago

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Has The Turner Prize Taken A Turn For The Better? Turner Prize, Tate Britain 3
Anthea Hamilton's derriere has been making all the headlines and her work is full of humour.

The Turner Prize has a history of being edgy and controversial: Tracey Emin’s bed, Damien Hirst's sliced up cow and calf — you know the story.

But lately it's become rather dull. The last exhibition held in London, two years ago, featured three video artists and was SO uninspiring it earned a rare zero star review from us.

Thankfully, this year there's been significant improvement.

The artist gathering all the press attention is Anthea Hamilton, with her giant sculpture of a derriere. Designed as a humorous work to sit above a New York doorway, it's just a shame visitors can't walk under it.

Clothes play a big part in Hamilton's works too, including this camouflaged brick suit.

However it does split Hamilton's section in two, forming an inside and an outside section. One side features brickwork designs all over the walls, with threatening machetes stabbed into the wall as clothes hangars.

The other side is decorated to look like blue skies over London — with underwear suspended on string. It's all rather bonkers and a lot of fun. The Turner Prize likes to nominate humorous artists but has never let one win, so we think Hamilton's chances are slim.

Helen Marten's assemblages can also be found over at the Serpentine Sackler gallery.

Helen Marten is one of the front runners with her assemblages that seem random, but have been perfectly crafted with snake skins in drawers and various other ephemera. We covered her work in Serpentine galleries and this is a strong companion piece to that exhibition.

Josephine Pryde has a miniature train covered in graffiti, referencing the places the train has been. We liked the train but her photography is a let down: focusing in on hands of models feels like it's trying to make a point about consumerism that is never realised. Overall we think she's the weakest candidate.

Josephine Pryde's miniature train is the only one of her works we liked.

Michael Dean's chaotic installation looked better when it was on show at South London Gallery, but this installation has a strong socio-political element that becomes evident after visitors circumnavigate his work. A pile of pennies adds up to £20,436 — the amount the government states is the minimum that two adults and two children need to survive for a year in the UK.

So the big question is... who will win? Both Marten and Dean are in poll position, having already had the backing to receive major exhibitions at public galleries.

Pennies, lots of pennies in Michael Dean's work referencing poverty and the gap between rich and poor.

Marten is the artist's artist and looking at the jury we feel she'll get the nod. Having said that, Dean’s message resonates with austerity times, and the jury may want to make a political statement by selecting him.

This year's Turner Prize is by no means a hugely memorable one — but we're glad it’s a massive improvement on the last.

Turner Prize 2016 is on at Tate Britain until 2 January 2017. Tickets are £12 for adults, concessions available.

Last Updated 04 October 2016