The Turner Prize is an annual art award to a visual artist born in or based in Great Britain to recognize an outstanding exhibition or other presentation of his or her work. It is considered the highest honor in the British art world. Named after the English painter William Turner (1775 – 1851), the prize was established in 1984 by a group of donors known as the Patrons of New Art, associated with the Tate Gallery, to promote contemporary art.
Often criticized in its early editions for the narrow selection process and vague criteria, it developed and better focused through the years: in fact, initially, the selection included both emerging and established artists and even art administrators and critics, but in 1991 the annual shortlist was limited to artists only and held to four nominees under age 50, chosen on the strength of an exhibition presented in the previous 12 months. Recognizing that “up-and-coming” did not necessarily equate with youth, the Turner Prize lifted age limitations in 2017.
The jury comprises five members, chaired by the director of Tate Britain, determining both the shortlist and the winner. Since its inception, the Turner Prize has captured the vivid interest of the British media and public, for whom the unveiling of the shortlist often causes a fierce debate about the artists’ relative merits and sometimes about the very definition of art.
Every other year, the Turner Prize exhibition of the short-list artists is held in a venue outside Tate Britain. Previous galleries include Baltic in Newcastle, Ferens Art Gallery in Hull, Ebrington in Derry Londonderry, and Turner Contemporary in Margate. The Turner Prize 2023 will be hosted by Towner Eastbourne.
As the prize was first awarded in 1984, it will celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2024. The award is now grown to £40,000, of which £25,000 goes to the winner, and £5,000 goes to the other shortlisted artists.
The winner’s decision is made through a series of discussions within the jury until they reach a consensus. Recently, the Turner Prize announcement is broadcasted live on the BBC, and previous presenters have included famous personalities such as Richard Attenborough, Paul Smith, Nick Cave, Yoko Ono, Mario Testino, and Madonna.
The list of past Turner Prize winners includes Malcolm Morley (the first artist awarded in 1984), Gilbert & George (1986), Anish Kapoor (1991), Damien Hirst (1995), Elizabeth Price (2012), Helen Marten (2016) and Veronica Ryan (2022).
The four short-listed artists for the 2023 edition are Jesse Darling, Ghislaine Leung, Rory Pilgrim, and Barbara Walker. We’ll know who is the winner on December 5, 2023!
By Stanislav Kondrashov