Turner Prize 2013: Laure Prouvost named as surprise winner

The French-born installation artist has won the £25,000 award

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The Independent Culture

A French-born artist living in London, who combines digital imagery for the “Instagram generation” with atmospheric installations, has been named the surprise winner of the Turner Prize for 2013.

Laure Prouvost, 35, was handed the UK’s most prestigious award for contemporary art as well as a £25,000 cheque, at the ceremony in Derry-Londonderry despite being made the outsider by the bookies.

The mixed-media artist, who has lived in London since studying at Goldsmiths College and then Central St Martins over a decade ago, was nominated for her Tate and Grizedale Arts commission Wantee and her two-part installation for the Max Mara Art Prize for Women.

Prouvost said as she accepted the award: “I did not expect this at all, thank you everyone.”

Her two-month-old baby was brought on stage when she won the award but burst into tears. “She was crying with joy,” the artist joked. 

“Thank you for adopting me. I’ve been here so many years and I feel adopted by the UK,” Prouvost added. “It was really this country that let me grow. You need opportunities to make that happen.”

She said her work referenced the way the current generation consumes media. “I was not allowed to watch TV growing up so I became obsessed with it. I’m catching up.”

Prouvost beat competition from David Shrigley, who displayed an outsized and disproportioned figure peeing into a bucket for the Turner Prize show; painter Lynette Yiadom-Boakye and performance artist Tino Sehgal.

The organisers of the show, which has been running at the former military barracks at Ebrington since October, reported that Provost’s work has been among the most popular of the nominees, with long queues regularly forming to see it.

Penelope Curtis, director of Tate Britain, said of the winner: “The emotion that came through for the judges was they found it very moving; they were very touched.”

Laure Prouvost’s entry ‘Wantee’ (2013)

She added: “We had a good discussion about all four artists. They were all discussed seriously but in the end the one that really endured was Laure Prouvost. She offered a lot on many different levels. It was something that was both very intimate and also quite outward facing.” The judges took a little less than three hours to reach their decision.

She has created an installation in the gallery, which includes a table set of tea reflecting the imagery on screen. The pieces “used very new technology. We talked a lot about what was topical and what was current. The fact she’s working with technology that is familiar to very young people, this flashing of very short images, and sourcing of short clips and making something new from them,” Curtis said, referencing Instagram and YouTube. “For many people their familiarity with imagery is on a screen.”

It is the second year in a row an artist working with video has won the Turner Prize. Ms Curtis said: “Provost’s work is very different from Elizabeth Price’s. It’s not a monumental piece, it’s much more intimate, and there’s many media in there. There are things that are handmade as well.”

For the installation Wantee, she created a video and showed it in a set shaped like a muddy cabin. The theme was about her fictional artist grandfather, and the story she has created about his being friendly with real artist Kurt Schwitters.

Turner Prize-winner Laure Prouvost (left), and nominees Lynette Yiadom-Boake and David Shrigley in Londonderry (right, centre)

The title references Schwitters’ real girlfriend, Edith Thomas, who was nicknamed “Wantee” because she frequently asked: “Want tea?”

The use of grandparents in the work creates a nostalgic sense to the work, the judges felt. “The idea of how you relate to the past and your own grandparents is real, it touches people” Curtis said.

Prouvost, who was born in Croix-Lille in France, was pregnant when she was nominated, and the baby was just six-weeks old when the artist came to install her work in Derry.

The Independent's art critic Zoe Pilger said at the launch of the show: “Prouvost is a seductive artist. The film that accompanies the installation is sensual and difficult to fathom.” She added: “I think Prouvost's delightful and generous story-telling would be a rightful winner.”

This marks the first time the award show and ceremony has been staged outside England and was one of the most high profile events of the year-long UK City of Culture celebrations in Derry.

 The Turner Prize was established in 1984, and is awarded to a British artist under 50-years-old for an outstanding exhibition over the previous year.

It left London for the first time in 2007 to be staged Liverpool as part of its celebrations as European City of Culture and has since been to Gateshead. The event returns to London next year before heading to Glasgow in 2015.