Did The Wrong Artist Win The Turner Prize?

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 60 months ago

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Did The Wrong Artist Win The Turner Prize?
Should the art world be laughing at itself by picking Anthea Hamilton?

Helen Marten has won this year's Turner Prize. Congratulations are due as we liked her work at the Serpentine and the Turner Prize exhibitions.

But was she the right choice to win the prize?

Like it or not, the Turner Prize is not just another art prize. Every year, it makes headlines in the news section of most websites and newspapers, not just the arts section. It is one of those rare opportunities that art has to engage with the wider public, not just the people who go to galleries regularly.  

So the winner of the Turner Prize is a reflection of how artists view and reflect on what's going on around them in the wider world.

This is important because the major decision of this year — to leave the EU — put forward the argument that there is a liberal elite that is out of touch with the rest of the population. This is a claim that could easily include our large cultural institutions which, despite efforts to draw in a wider audience, struggle to draw in more working class visitors.

Given this highly politicised environment, the choice of Helen Marten to win the prize is an introverted one. She is an artist in the purest sense, making art for the sake of making art. The meaning of the work is only known to her. It's a sign of the art world burying its head in the sand in difficult times.

If Michael Dean had been picked, with his room full of pennies, it would have been recognition that, even at a time of cuts to arts funding, many people in the UK are struggling to survive financially. It would recognise that there are difficult decisions when it comes making funding cuts, and the arts are often competing with other vital services.

Anthea Hamilton would have been another solid choice, as her humorous over-sized buttocks would show that the art world can laugh at itself and isn't all focused on serious, conceptual art. It would send a message that art can be funny and engaging, and something anyone can enjoy — enjoying art being something that's often forgotten when it comes to heavy philosophical exhibitions.

The Turner Prize is about more than just art, but it seems like the jury wasn't ready to recognise this. Helen Marten is a worthy winner, but we don't think she was the right choice for this particular prize.

The Turner Prize 2016 exhibition is on at Tate Modern until 2 January.

Last Updated 06 December 2016