The 2016 Turner Prize has been awarded to Helen Marten. (Already admired + recognized, Marten won the 2016 Hepworth Prize for Sculpture.) The Prize – named after 19th century landscape artist J.M.W. Turner – is awarded to a British artist under 50 for an outstanding exhibition.
Marten beat the other three finalists for a prize of $32,000. (The others received $12,000 each) Her uniquely-fabricated objects are created with such unusual materials as fish skin and snooker chalk. (Huh?!) The jury, as they found her work “an exceptional contribution to the continuing development of contemporary visual art…like experience of the world in real time, it reflects a complex world, not one that can be boiled down to singular statements or buzzwords”. Although elegant, certainly they are enigmatic – a bit like the blur of net-surfing, with cryptic cultural references
Tate director Nicholas Serota commented that the strength of the Turner Prize lay in it encouraging people “to think about the world in new ways”.
Marten’s poetically esoteric installations certainly do that. In contrast, former winners include Tracey Emin – she of the ‘used bed’.
Receiving the award, Marten described the global outlook as “ever more precarious” and spoke out against xenophobia and the white nationalist “alt-right” movement which has come to the fore in the US. “I think as artists today and as people in this environment we are deeply, deeply privileged to be sitting here with a community that’s life blood is its diversity and exuberance,”
Nigerian poet and novelist Ben Okri announced the winner at the Tate Britain event, and praised art as “the biggest country in the world… it keeps no-one out and excludes no-one. Now that the boundaries are narrowing and hearts are hardening… I feel we need art now more than ever.”