Around 120 Fine Art students and staff gathered for a panel discussion about the Turner Prize, followed by the live televised broadcast of the announcement of the 2013 winner. Among the four nominees this year was Falmouth Alumna Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, who graduated from Falmouth’s BA(Hons) Fine Art with first class honours in 2000.
Director of the Falmouth School of Art, Dr. Ginny Button, who curated the Turner Prize from 1993-1998, and authored The Turner Prize: Twenty Years, led the discussion, with panel members critic, writer and former Turner Prize juror Sacha Craddock, and 2013 Threadneedle Prize winner and Senior Lecturer at Falmouth University, Lisa Wright.
The panel started by considering the value of art competitions generally, and noted that the Turner Prize is particular in that it is based on closed selection, rather than open submission. This led to reflection on the move, among open competitions, toward digital submission. In 2014, the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, which has always invited physical work, will for the first time shortlist all categories from initial digital submission, anticipating this process being easier for entrants. Wright, winner of the 2013 Threadneedle Prize, an open competition for figurative and representational painting and sculpture, suggested that entering certain work digitally can be problematic due to the loss of the sense of scale, surface and presentation. The panel encouraged students, however, to enter open competitions: Craddock recalled having offered Falmouth alumnus Ben Rivers a show when his work caught her eye whilst she was judging competition submissions. Rivers has gone on to win numerous awards and prizes and exhibit internationally, and last month returned to give a guest lecture at Falmouth.
Turning their attention to the role and operation of juries, the panel considered the experience of judging an art prize. Button asked, ‘What is it like in that room?’ In Wright’s experience of fellow judges, ‘the work you think a judge will select will be nothing like the work they select’. For Craddock, the role leaves jurors vulnerable, the process of evaluation also being revealing about those doing the evaluating. That process of evaluation and critique, the panel pointed out, was one that this audience was already well-versed in, from reflecting on their own work and that of their peers throughout their studies.
Button’s experience assisting juries as curator of Turner Prize revealed to her the extent to which all four shortlisted artists have had to resonate with all the jurors in order to make the shortlist. At this point, Button suggests, all four are winners – from the shortlist, the prize really could go in any of four directions. But the make-up of the jury can, she observed, give an indication of which artists may appear on the shortlist, reflecting the particular interests of the jurors.
The Turner Prize is awarded for an outstanding exhibition or other presentation of work in the 12 months preceding nomination; however, it is the later Turner Prize exhibition which draws the wider public and has tended to capture the media’s imagination. Craddock recalled how in 1999 – when she and her fellow jurors awarded the prize to Steve McQueen – media and public attention focused on Tracey Emin’s Turner Prize exhibition, My Bed, with then Culture Secretary Chris Smith accusing the jury of ‘controversy for controversy’s sake’. In fact, Emin had been nominated for earlier 1998-99 works, including film and, as Tate announced, ‘for her exhibitions in New York and Japan in which she continued to show her versatility across a wide range of media, her vibrancy and flair for self-expression’.
The panel deftly avoided revealing to the audience which artist any of them was rooting for from the 2013 shortlist – ‘You’re not supposed to ask that!’ – but they were happy to share their admiration for Yiadom-Boakye. Wright described her as ‘very true to herself’, and Craddock, who taught Yiadom-Boakye at the Royal Academy Schools, reflected on her ‘amazing ability’, and noted the mysterious quality of her paintings. Yiadom-Boakye, who describes her nomination as ‘a very big surprise’, is the second Falmouth alumna to be nominated for the Turner Prize: Tacita Dean was nominated in 1998.
As attention turned to Channel 4’s televised lead-up to the announcement of the 2013 winner, the Falmouth crowd heard Scissor Sisters’ Ana Matronic, the daughter of a painter, enthuse about Yiadom-Boakye’s work: ‘I love, love, loved it’.
And finally, the live announcement, from Derry-Londonderry, of the 2013 winner…Congratulations to Laure Prouvost!
Congratulations, too, to Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Tino Sehgal and David Shrigley, who, as Ginny Button pointed out, are all winners by virtue of making the shortlist and – as Shrigley observed – ‘get paid £5000 anyway…that can’t be bad!’.