Turner Prize launch greeted with protests

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

The UK's most prestigious - and controversial - modern art award was launched today amid protests by photographers and artists alike.

The launch of the Turner Prize at Tate Britain in central London was initially boycotted by photographers after they were asked to sign a form which said they could not publish any images or words which would "result in any adverse publicity" for the Tate.

There was also a separate protest outside the gallery by a group of artists, calling themselves The Stuckists, who said the shortlisted work was "pretentious and vacuous".

One of the contenders for the prize, described as "one of the most prestigious awards for the visual arts in Europe", is a recording of three separate versions of a traditional folk song by Glasgow-born artist Susan Philipsz.

It is the first time a sound installation has been shortlisted.

The artist has recorded three versions of the song, which tells the tale of a man drowned at sea who returns to tell his lover of his death.

Curator Katherine Stout said it was a "very physical" work.

She said: "It plays upon the otherwise emptiness of the gallery."

It is joined by other works including a painting of the scene where scientist David Kelly died, a collection of broken canvasses laid on top of each other and a series of films.

Dexter Dalwood, Angela de la Cruz and The Otolith Group are the other artists in the running for the £25,000 main award.

The shortlisted artists will receive £5,000 each.

Also among the works on display are a coffin-like black box filled with old paintings and a series of televisions showing a 1989 Channel 4 series about the legacy of ancient Greece.

The two-hour stand-off with the photographers ended when the Tate allowed them to attend the launch without signing the form and said it would be reviewed before further events.

Brian Sewell, art critic for the Evening Standard, said the organisers of the prize were "prickly" about criticism.

He said: "They are prickly about the Turner Prize because they are mocked about it year after year.

"Most of the art that gets into the Turner Prize is some kind of extremely contemporary rubbish - assemblies of rubbish masquerading under important names."

The prize has had its share of adverse publicity in the past.

In 1999, artist Tracey Emin was shortlisted for her work My Bed, which featured an unmade bed complete with stained sheets.

The resulting row saw then-culture secretary Chris Smith criticise the jury for deliberately selecting "shock" installations.

Other selections from the exhibition which have drawn controversy included Vong Phaophanit's Neon Rice Field - the piece featuring mounds of rice in straight lines covering neon lights was heavily jeered in 1993.

Martin Creed's prize-winning installation The Lights Going On and Off was widely ridiculed in 2001.

In 2002, former Culture Minister Kim Howells called the entries "cold, mechanical bullshit".

The pieces that year included Fiona Banner's hand-written Wordscape describing a pornographic film and Liam Gillick's Perspex suspended ceiling, which gave the feeling of light coming through a stained glass window in the gallery.

The following year a sexually explicit sculpture of blow-up dolls shown alongside a series of altered Goya prints by brothers Jake and Dinos Chapman triggered controversy.

The prize was set up in 1984 to "promote public discussion of new developments in contemporary British art" and is open to British artists under the age of 50.