Turner Prize bursaries could signal a turn toward a more cooperative art world

A member of gallery staff sits in one of 2019’s winning pieces called ‘Collective Conscience’ by artist Oscar Murillo.
Will Oliver/EPA

The chair of the Turner Prize jury, Alex Farquharson, surprised the art world when he announced that the 2020 prize will be replaced by ten bursaries of £10,000 each. This decision could signal a change in the way the British art world operates and a potential step towards a more diverse and equitable industry in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Founded in 1984, the Turner Prize is one of the most prestigious awards on the UK art scene. Awarded annually to an artist who works primarily in Britain, or who was born in Britain and works overseas, the award has a major impact on the recipient’s career prospects. Celebrity artists Damien Hirst and Grayson Perry rank among the list of former winners, and Tracey Emin was catapulted into the media when her installation My Bed was among the nominees in 1999.

An award for contemporary art is bound to attract controversy, and the Turner Prize has received more than its share of criticism. While Prince Charles is reported to have asserted that the award had “contaminated” Britain’s art establishment, the art group known as the Stuckists suggested in 2000 that:

The only artist who wouldn’t be in danger of winning The Turner Prize is Turner.

Turner’s last wishes

Joseph Mallord William Turner would have been pleased to see a prize named in his honour. He was a generous artist, bequeathing over 300 paintings and thousands of sketches to the British nation upon his death in 1851. He also made a bequest to the Royal Academy of Arts in London and left a substantial cash sum in his will for the establishment of a hospital and almshouses for artists who had fallen on hard times. Yet Turner’s posthumous wishes were not fulfilled in the way the artist had hoped.

Joseph Mallord William Turner’s Fishermen at Sea, which he exhibited at the Royal Academy.

His paintings were ultimately divided between the National Gallery and the Tate (now Tate Britain), the hospital was not built, and the support for so-called “decayed” artists did not materialise. Ironically, during the current pandemic, Turner’s hopes of supporting wider communities of artists may eventually be coming to fruition.

Of the £40,000 Turner Prize monies, the winner typically receives £25,000 and the three other shortlisted artists receive £5,000 each. In 2019, however, the four finalists – Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Helen Cammock, Oscar Murillo and Tai Shani – asked to be considered as a group in a gesture of “commonality, multiplicity and solidarity”. The prize monies were shared equally between them.

The Tate’s decision to award ten bursaries instead of giving the Turner Prize to an individual is an extension of this collective approach. The decision has been taken, in part, for practical reasons. The current situation is hardly conducive to physical art viewing and jury deliberations. But there may be something more to learn from this temporary suspension of the Turner Prize.

With social distancing policies in force, museums around the world have faced disruption and, at least, temporary closure. Major art fairs and biennials have been postponed and auctions seriously curtailed. The negative impact of these developments on artists’ exhibition prospects, opportunities, and livelihoods has been dramatic. It has forced many to consider what the art world will look like post-pandemic.

Art world for all

The art market has traditionally been a winner-take-all environment in which only a few artists command the highest prices. However, in the wake of the current crisis, it might be possible to realise a more diverse and democratic art sector.

Tai Shani, Helen Cammock, Oscar Murillo and Lawrence Abu Hamdan won the 2019 Turner Prize as a collective in what they called a ‘statement of solidarity’.

The unfolding history of the Turner Prize hints at this possibility. As artists themselves advocate for a collective approach to the award of prize monies and arts councils and institutions rethink the range of support they provide to individuals and groups, it is tempting to think that we’re witnessing the emergence of a more solidaristic creative economy. The upshot of this could benefit artists and their publics in various ways: a more diverse art world, wider funding options, enhanced institutional support for artists, less focus on celebrity. An increased number of smaller grants could offer a vital lifeline to artists in the early stages of their careers or encourage them to embark on riskier, innovative projects.

Turner’s portrait appears against the background of one of his most famous paintings, The Fighting Temeraire, on the current £20 British banknote. Nestled in the lower right-hand corner of the note is a copy of Turner’s signature as it appears on his will. As this year’s bursaries are handed over to ten artists instead of one, perhaps the British art world has drawn a little closer to Turner’s last wishes.The Conversation

Kathryn Brown, Lecturer in Art History, Loughborough University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Tate announces Uniqlo Tate Lates Night In

On 29 May, Tate will host its first ever UNIQLO Tate Lates Night In. While the galleries are closed, Tate Modern’s popular monthly event will be coming direct to viewers at home with a vibrant mix of artist talks, workshops, film, music and meditation. Highlights will include Tate Modern’s Director Frances Morris in conversation with Kara Walker, creative workshops with London artist Lakwena, meditation with Sanchia Legister and DJ sets with Floating Points from NTS radio. Launching at 7-9pm BST with an introduction by BBC Radio 1 Presenter Gemma Cairney, UNIQLO Tate Lates Night In will be available to view on the Tate website. It will include two different streams of content so viewers can curate their own night.

One stream will be dedicated to artist talks and workshops including Frances Morris in conversation with Kara Walker about the Hyundai Commission: Kara Walker: Fons Americanus which, during Tate Modern’s closure, remains in the Turbine Hall. Frances Morris will also speak to Wolfgang Tillmans later in the evening about his current 2020Solidarity project. Viewers can learn the basics of creating a bold, statement artwork for their home with London artist Lakwena or how to make DIY zines with Riot Soup Collective. Tate Exchange artists Anna Farley and Hamja Ahsan will also talk about making art in isolation from their makeshift studios in quarantine. The evening will end with a calming, guided meditation from Sanchia Legister.

The other stream will be devoted to music, film and spoken word including poets Raymond Antrobus and Anthony Anaxagorou selecting poems to read during lockdown and a series of highly original short animations by Meriem Bennani and Orian Barki made in response to the pandemic. The night will end with an hour of music programmed by NTS radio with visuals specially created by Wolfgang Tillmans for this collaboration.

UNIQLO Tate Lates occur at Tate Modern on the last Friday of every month and have left their mark on London’s cultural scene by offering a free and accessible creative hub for people to come together, socialise and exchange ideas. Over the past three and a half years, these events have been dedicated to showcasing local emerging talent, alongside well-known DJs and world-famous artists. UNIQLO Tate Lates Night In is part of Tate’s commitment to continue to inspire and connect people across the world and to support and platform local emerging artists alongside collection artists during lockdown.


L7 - an exhibition of seven uplifting images - 25th May 2020 to 31st May 2020

In these uncertain and worrying times it’s useful to have a few pleasing things to concentrate on. Focusing on beautiful distractractions can help to ease the burden. One of the positive things that has come to the fore during lockdown has been the way that creativity has played a major part in our wellbeing.

For many artists lockdown has been a highly productive time although unfortunately for many not a particularly financially beneficial. Artists are quick to adapt and have sort alternative ways to show their work. Instagram has become the go to place to exhibit work.

In a bid to help lift people’s spirits the artist Paul Garrard has produced an exhibition of seven uplifting images. L7 is a series of seven bright and positive pictures created in a mood of optimism as an antidote to some of the anxiety that currently haunts us.

L7 will run from 25th May 2020 to 31st May 2020
One uplifting image by the artist will appear every day for seven days on Instagram @paulgarrardartist. At the end of the exhibition a free e-book will be made available for anyone who wishes to download, print and covet it.

Paul said, “I wanted to offer people something upbeat in these dark times; images of vibrant shapes and jolly colours. In this series I’ve tried to channel positive vibes of calmness, love, hope and mindfulness. We must never lose sight of the fact that life can be good. We need to remember and cherish that. I hope my pictures convey that. The world needs more love!”

To coincide with the exhibition Paul is also releasing a musical track entitled More Love Required. This will drop on Monday 25th May 2020 via Paul’s account on SoundCloud


Interesting artists on the Instagram

Square is a tricky format, but many artists seem to adapt to it quite easily. There are some very interesting artists on the Instagram at the moment. Art lends itself so readily to the medium. Here are three recommendations of artists on there that I think you should check out. None of them are me.




I hope you enjoy the selection.



I’m very impressed by the way the art world was quick off the mark to shift content online as quickly as it could. People have been displaying their work in a variety of ways. The e-zine and e-book has become a very popular way of getting art to the people. Some are very DIY, nothing wrong with that, and some are presented with bells and whistles, which isn’t always to peoples’ liking. But one of the best designs I’ve come across recently has been put together by the artist NanoHour. It’s an e-book called Psychasthenia. It’s so very well put together, presented and jam packed with an interesting and varied selection of work. Check it out. It’s brilliant!

Click on the image below to view the pdf e-book:



Stork chicks hatch in UK for first time in 600 years

Stork chicks hatch in UK for first time in 600 years – why that's great news for British wildlife

Keeping the nest warm.
Alexander Lees, Author provided

Alexander C. Lees, Manchester Metropolitan University and Oliver Metcalf, Manchester Metropolitan University

In a spring marked by bad news, events unfolding in the crown of an old oak tree could offer a dose of optimism. Three pairs of white storks settled down to breed on the Knepp Estate in West Sussex, southern England, in March 2020. On May 15, it was announced that the first chicks had hatched – the first to be born in Britain since a pair nested on the roof of St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh in 1416.

This was no chance event – we owe this precious conservation breakthrough to the efforts of all those involved in the White Stork Project, who have released over 100 storks at three sites in southeast England.

Wildlife, such as the storks and the white-tailed eagles reintroduced to the Isle of Wight in 2019, has provided a lockdown distraction. Both species have treated garden birdwatchers to spectacular sights as they’ve toured southern England, and in the case of the eagles even further afield.

Stork bones have been found in the limestone caves of the Peak District dating from the late glacial period, between 43,000 and 10,000 years ago, and in human settlements from the Isle of Scilly to the Shetlands in the Bronze Age, as far back as 2,500 years ago. But their sparse remains suggest that they were probably always rare in the UK.

Despite this, the history of Britons living alongside storks is preserved in place names like Storrington, close to the Knepp estate, which in Saxon times was called “Estorchestone” – village of the storks. But storks, along with other large wetland birds like cranes and spoonbills, were erased from Britain after centuries of hunting and the draining of their wetland habitats.

Read more:
How bison, moose and caribou stepped in to do the cleaning work of extinct mammoths

Storks have held a significant role in different cultures throughout recorded history. Ancient Egyptians associated storks with the soul, while Greek mythology cast them as baby-stealers. European Christians have imagined storks as everything from carers to adulterers. Their penchant for eating snakes was seen as a particularly holy trait, in protecting people from serpentine evils.

In more recent history, storks provided a eureka moment for scientists studying bird migration. A few 19th century storks returning to Germany from their African winter grounds arrived with hunters’ arrows stuck in their bodies. These “arrow storks”, or Pfeilstörche, as the Germans named them, offered ornithologists proof of their intercontinental wanderings.

A migrant white stork foraging alongside Thomson’s and Grant’s gazelles in the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania.
Alexander Lees, Author provided

Standing under the stork umbrella

White storks now commonly nest at the top of tall trees across Europe. Their numbers have been boosted by multiple reintroduction schemes in the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and Sweden. Storks are touted as potent symbols of ecosystem health, and with European governments spending millions on restoring wetlands, they’re joining cranes and spoonbills as another long lost wetland bird which has recolonised old haunts in recent decades without any direct help from humans.

But the success of these wetland species stands in stark contrast to the declines of many other birds in other habitats. It’s easier to care for species that live in discrete patches of habitat like wetlands, than it is to save the wildlife of the wider countryside. Nevertheless, like the beaver, white-tailed eagle and pine marten, white storks are thought to make excellent “umbrella species” – species whose habitat needs match up with lots of other wildlife, so protecting storks can help countless other species.

White storks are a familiar sight in lightly farmed rural landscapes in some parts of Europe.
Alexander Lees, Author provided

But storks are adaptable creatures too. News that Spanish storks have given up migrating to “binge on junk food in landfill sites” suggests that they may not always be the best indicators of ecosystem health.

The white is not western Europe’s only stork either. The more furtive black stork has been expanding westwards in recent decades. This is a success that’s also partially the result of a reintroduction programme. The return of beavers to the forested waterways of western Europe has been a boon for black storks. Beavers are ecosystem engineers, meaning they create large wet woodland habitats full of the amphibians that storks like to eat.

Migrant black storks have even visited the Knepp Estate, where the new white chicks hatched. This wild estate is expecting to receive beavers soon, meaning black storks might naturally join their white cousins as breeders one day.

Black storks are known to move into wetland areas when beavers return.

In contrast to some reintroduced species which shy away from people, white storks have a long association with human settlements, offering an opportunity to welcome the wild right into the heart of British towns and villages. This new generation of native British storks could be a conduit for greater public engagement with nature, bringing wider awareness of the issues facing a broad range of British wildlife. After all, it’s hard to ignore a stork nest on your chimney pot.The Conversation

Alexander C. Lees, Senior Lecturer in Conservation Biology, Manchester Metropolitan University and Oliver Metcalf, PhD Candidate in Ornithology, Manchester Metropolitan University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


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