We reflect on Assemble's Turner Prize win
I believe that in the history of art and of thought there has always been at every living moment of culture a ‘will to renewal’ - Eugene Ionesco
In a time of crisis, fear and destruction it may seem the Turner Prize is one frivolity too far. Famous for its promotion of Damien Hurst’s pickled cows and Tracey Emin’s champagne induced outbursts the prize has been questioned for over 30 years. What does it stand for? Why are we rewarding artists for their work? Who benefits. Who cares?
With design collective Assemble’s win, it appears the judges have realised there is no longer room in the public consciousness for ‘art for art’s sake’.
It may seem strange that the Turner Prize has finally succumbed to outside pressures; however no one is more perplexed than the winners themselves. Talking to Sky News, Matt Leung, a member of the East-London based design collective, commented: “We were mostly confused at the beginning, it's the largest visual art prize in the UK and we didn't really understand what was happening. It was quite bewildering but once we got the context of it - in the context of useful art and what that means - we used it as an opportunity to further the project, to set up Granby workshop as a social enterprise”
Assemble’s competition reverted to the Turner mould. Bonnie Camplin, Janice Kerbel and Nicole Wermers all nominated for works that would have you scratching your head and perhaps wondering where the café was.
Judge Alistair Hudson said Assemble were "part of a long tradition of art working in society". Art critic Estelle Lovatt, said: "This year it's extra special because the Turner Prize has its finger on the pulse of the nation…we've actually got people bringing the community together through art."
Assemble has not only displayed the power to change the opinion of a Prize traditionally out of touch with the times, but perhaps modern art itself. Public engagement with the arts is an issue that many galleries and arts projects are sadly not addressing directly. Assemble have set a new precedence by taking art to the public and not expecting the public to come to them.
This year’s Turner Prize has recognised a new inclusive chapter in modern art and perhaps regenerated their own image through rewarding a collective that have restored, rebuilt and renewed a little piece of Liverpool.
However, not everyone is convinced. Some questioned whether Assemble should have even been eligible for the £25,000 prize. Commenting after the announcement on Channel 4, author and broadcaster Muriel Gray said: "I think it's changed the nature of the Turner Prize because I don't think it is modern art.”
But surely if the public can see art making a difference to communities such as their own, engaging with it in future might become less of a milestone?