Letter: Prize for perversity

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Prize for perversity

Sir: In your enthusiastic support for the Turner Prize (leading article, 2 December), you inadvertently highlighted precisely what is wrong with the prize.

You state that the prize has "added to the gaiety of the nation in one of the areas of culture where Britain is now paramount". In fact, what the prize has done, very successfully, is to erode the traditional and fundamental skills and disciplines of the real artist. The Turner Prize, over the past 14 years, has encouraged young artists to strive for shallow entertainment in their work, for novelty, titillation and worst of all, a perverse delight in displaying an alarming inability to draw competently or even to arrange colour and shape, in any meaningful way.

You go on to assert that the prize shows where some of the action in modern art is taking place. Alas, this is simply not the case. The Turner Prize has become a vehicle with which to promote the careers of a handful of unexceptional artists by cynical agents, dealers and in some cases, gallery administrators.

Finally, you conclude that "a public gallery is doing its job entertaining and involving an audience". While it is highly debatable whether a national gallery should be entertaining, it is certainly beyond question that it should involve and engage the public. But publicity stunts like the Turner Prize merely serve to baffle and alienate both the general public and the gallery-going public. For a competition which avoids such dangers we need look no further than the Jerwood Prize.


London WC1