The Turner Prize, named after the wonderful artist, is an annual award given to a British Artist, or an artist who works in Britain. It is usually a very big deal to get one and just as big a deal to be nominated for one.
This year, however, it all changed. I don’t know if the committee for this year’s prize are so inexperienced they needed our help or if they think that inclusivity is the same as amateur, but they opened the nominations up to the public. This sounds like a great idea, we get to say who we think is great, but of course an expert panel decides.
I am not against expertise. In fact, I am really in favour of it. I want any operation I need done by an expert in the field rather than a member of the general public. I don’t even mind elitism. I would not watch a 100 metre final with my neighbour running in it, but I would watch it with an elite athlete. I don’t know why you are not allowed to be an expert or among the elite in other areas such as art or science. I have no problem with it. I am not talking about exclusivity, where you are excluded from participating. I am talking about the best winning the prize.
Now, I think if you ask the public to nominate we should see the list that we nominated and the votes, otherwise why bother asking us? I don’t mind an expert panel making the final short-list otherwise what is the point of excellence? But I do mind being asked to participate and then not knowing what happened. The Tate has no ‘long’ list. I think that some of us public may have nominated artists, rather than amateurs. I want to see.
What they do have is the usual short list of four contestants. I say the usual short list as it is not the usual short list at all. Most of the list does not comprise artists. There are community groups and gardening designers. Now we have just had the Chelsea Flower Show in London and there are many other such shows for gardeners. I do not think that designers need another forum when there are so few art forums.
There is one obscure art work which perhaps nobody saw that has been nominated, but the rest are not by artists. They are pretending to be inclusive, but that is not what I want. I want excellence, innovation, ideas, creativity, spiritual uplift, art, something. I don’t want a community project or a mural by some school children nor do I want a designer.
At least this year it is being held in Scotland and as so many of us are furious with the Scots for bringing in this government and having 56 seats for a nationalistic group many of us, I hope, won’t bother to take any notice of it.
But please Tate, next year, get a panel of experts in art and get an artists only list. Art is something done by artists, just like science is done by scientists. If you don’t know that, get someone that does and stop wasting this moment to promote artists, a sorely needed moment for most artists in Britain given the punitive funding cuts to the arts. This should have been their moment. The designers and community workers have lots of places to go, just like the amateur actors, I’m sure their friends and family love them, but please can we bring back art to the Turner prize, an exclusively art prize?
If the committee don’t know what that is then sack the committee.