ARTS / Cries & Whispers

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THE TURNER Prize is with us again, and it all sounds clear enough: pounds 20,000 will go to 'a British artist under 50 for an outstanding exhibition or other presentation of work in the 12 months preceding 30 June 1992'. But the shortlist of four contenders announced by the Tate this week - Grenville Davey, Damien Hirst, David Tremlett and Alison Wilding - prompts a short list of four questions.

1. Has the panel of judges actually seen all the exhibitions cited? Two of the artists (Davey and Tremlett) are included solely for shows that have happened abroad: Grenville Davey (b 1961) is mentioned for 'the continuing development of his sculpture' - as seen only in Berne, Dusseldorf and Madrid. In fact the answer, I gather, is: no, they haven't been able to get to all the shows. But they have had a good look at some catalogues and slides.

2. How long is 12 months? Take Alison Wilding (b 1948), the solid, high-time-she-got-a-mention candidate. High time indeed, for she was up for consideration by the judges last year also, and for the same two exhibitions of her sculpture that are cited this year. She missed the shortlist in July 1991. But the shows' runs overlapped the year-break - and second time lucky. It may be lucky too that one of the shows was at the Dean Clough Sculpture Studio - whose director, Robert Hopper, is one of the present judges.

3. Who is David Tremlett? The mystery contender, on whom information is sketchy. A 'post-minimalist painter'. Born 1945. Had a recent retrospective in Hanover. Exhibits little in this country. Sounds to me like the high-time-he-was-at-least-heard-of-again candidate.

4. What precisely is the prize for? Basically, to promote the right kind of artist. Being a figurative artist won't help you. Being a graduate of Goldsmiths' college and/or a constituent of the Saatchi collection will. Having had a show somewhere within roughly the last year is a requirement that serves to narrow the field. And being flavour of the year - ie Damien Hirst (b 1965), see the art press passim - makes you look like a dead cert. All will be revealed on 24 November.

TODAY, weather and what the BBC calls the 'match situation' permitting, cricket addicts like me will be glued to either the television or the radio, watching England play Pakistan at Headingley. We will not, however, be enjoying ourselves as much as we might. The reason is this summer's guest commentator, Asif Iqbal. Few batsmen in the modern era have been as good to watch as Asif, and few commentators as dull to listen to. Rare is the remark that he does not preface with the word 'obviously', and he is not wrong. One of his more penetrating pensees in the last Test was: 'Pakistan will be hoping for a big score here.' To make matters worse, he is the only commentator who is on both radio and television. The BBC's intentions, in having a representative of the visiting side, are (obviously) good, but when the man in question can tell us only what we can guess for ourselves, it looks like tokenism.

THE CAMPAIGN has claimed another victim. The man whose fate it has been to defend the price of CDs, Jeremy Silver, the, er, silver- tongued spokesman for the British Phonographic Industry, has resigned. He says it's because he has been offered a better job, as

head of press at Virgin Records, but he can't expect me to believe that. Could it be that he just ran out of arguments in favour of the pounds 14 disc? Like Achilles when he slew Hector, I shall rather miss him. He won't have to buy many records now, but if he does, I trust he won't pay full price if he can help it.