The Turner Prize nominations are always a bit of a shock. Arguably the world’s most prestigious art prize, last year’s shortlist for the Turner Prize pushed what we think art can be, bringing together conspiracy theories, fur coats on chairs and a piece of music called Doug. The 2015 winners – architecture collective Assemble – won for their artistically-led urban regeneration work, causing a minor outcry in the art world in the process. (Is this art? It’s architecture!)
The Turner Prize has launched artists like Grayson Perry, Gilbert & George and Damien Hirst into superstardom, with each of this year’s nominees in with a chance to join the ranks of artistic royalty. The annual award goes to a British artist under 50, with the exhibition and award ceremony alternating between London and another UK city every other year. After this year’s exhibition in London, the 2017 award will be heading to Hull to join our celebrations as UK City of Culture 2017, with an exhibition in the Ferens Art Gallery.
We can hardly wait for next year’s exhibition – but in the meantime, here’s a quick look at each of this year’s nominees.
Michael Dean is obsessed with metal shop-front shutters, bending and twisting into shapes that are striking (also read: weird) to look at. He’s primarily a sculptor, and creates artworks that resemble typography and lettering out of everyday objects. Or as the organisers of the Turner Prize put it, he ‘creates work that is concerned with the physical manifestation of language’. These aren’t letters as you or I might understand them though; Dean has created 3D typefaces that only he understands. He’s nominated for two solo exhibitions, Sic Glyphs in London and Qualities of Violence in Amsterdam.
After studying just down the road in Leeds, Anthea Hamilton works in sculpture, installation, performance and video. She’s fascinated by the legacy of surrealism, creating artworks that are often as funny as they are weird. Like Salvador Dali’s Lobster Telephone, Hamilton creates surreal, comic and unexpected combinations in her work, like a tailored suit designed to look like a brick wall. Hamilton is also the artist behind the most headline-grabbing piece in the competition this year – a huge sculpture of a man’s bum. These giant buttocks were originally the idea of Italian Architect Gaetano Pesce, who intended to use the sculpture as the doorway to a New York apartment building. Although this (sadly) never came to be, Hamilton’s sculpture will have pride of place in this year’s Turner Prize exhibition. Hamilton is nominated for her Anthea Hamilton: Lichen! Libido! Chastity! exhibition in New York.
Marten’s work is probably the hardest to pin down out of the four nominees, with the Tate describing her work as ‘slippery and elusive in both form and meaning’. Marten aims to give things that have no physical shape in the world – like the idea of labour – into some real, physical form. The results are often complex, strange objects that are baffling to look at, with names that could hardly seem further from the things themselves; like ‘The cat from the bacon’ or ‘Puddlefoot digging’. There’s something intriguing about her though (that, to be honest, I can’t put into words). The Guardian call her ‘baffling in a good way’. Martin is nominated for exhibitions including Lunar Nibs in Venice and Eucalyptus Let Us In in New York.
Working primarily in photography, Josephine Pryde creates carefully staged photographs that take a new look at established photographic conventions. These might include MRI scans of foetuses in their mother’s wombs, shot through tinted filters and set against desert landscapes. Or they might borrow the aesthetics of fashion magazine photography or advertising, turning them into something truly surprising. Her installation lapses in Thinking By the person i Am played with the idea that art galleries should be fun, interactive experiences – by setting out a track with a miniature train, that visitors could ride around the gallery. She’s nominated for that exhibition, when it appeared in San Francisco.