Turner Prize 2017: a more diverse, ‘conservative’ show
Is shock-free show backward looking?
The Turner Prize 2017 shortlist exhibition, which opens in Hull today, has been praised as the most diverse, mature and accessible show of the century, though some may wonder if it's lost its edge.
For many years the shortlist was considered the domain of young mavericks and was notorious for its pickled cows by Damien Hirst and unmade beds by Tracey Emin. But the age restriction that has prevented artists over 50 from entering since 1991 was removed this year, resulting in many entries from older talent.
Hurvin Anderson and Lubaina Himid are the first over-50s to be nominated in decades, while Andrea Buttner and Rosalind Nashashibi are both in their 40s. The BBC reports that Anderson, 52, and Himid, 63, are the bookies’ favourites to win.
Tate Britain director Alex Farquharson, who chairs this year’s jury, says the focus is on celebrating artists who had “previously been neglected by the mainstream”.
Will Gompertz for the BBC says it’s an “unmitigated disaster for the headline writers of Fleet Street” because there’s “no shock, or sensation, no vulgarity or profanity”. The critic argues that the most remarkable thing about this year’s selection is that it’s “unremarkable” and features artists who can “actually paint” if they want to.
A more “conservative” exhibition is the inevitable outcome of removing the age limit, says Gompertz, who adds that “the Turner Prize has grown up”.
Jackie Wullschlager in the Financial Times says the decision “pays off handsomely”. The critic praises the wide-ranging shortlist and the “gracious, thoughtful presentation”, calling it “the most serious, accessible Turner exhibition this century”.
Wullschlager says that the show embraces “a broad spectrum” of art-making including painting, sculptural installation, film and archival work. She praises Rosalind Nashashibi’s work for its “politically engaged poetics”, but says Hurvin Anderson’s “languid, mysterious” paintings “steal the show and deserve the award”.
Adrian Searle in The Guardian however, finds it “an uneven and at times frustrating exhibition”. But Searle agrees that relaxing the upper age limit has been “a good thing”, given that some artists don’t hit their stride until “relatively late” or are overlooked for other reasons.
Searle says that Andrea Buttner’s and Rosalind Nashashibi’s shows are “the best in this year’s prize”, but finds Himid’s recent work “stilted”. He says there are “too many paintings” by Anderson in a selection from the last decade.
Mark Hudson in The Daily Telegraph says the changes have led to less “star making” and “navel gazing” and “more of the themes and ideas that the non-art specialist might actually care about”. The danger however, says the critic, is that the prize has become an award for “past achievement” rather than “work reflecting art today”.
Hudson says the best shortlisted works are from previous decades, which “goes against the spirit of the award”. So for “rigour, consistency and invention in art that is actually being produced now”, he backs Anderson for this year’s Turner Prize.
The Turner Prize exhibition is at the Ferens Gallery, Hull, until 7 January 2018.