November 28, 2021

A Turner Prize turning point

By Tom Green, Senior Producer, Counterpoints Arts

The Turner Prize for contemporary British art has a history of raising questions about what art is and who it is for, and this year is no exception. By focussing on socially engaged artistic collectives the 2021 shortlist presents a significant challenge to mainstream gallery curation.

Some people are upset.

An editorial in The Guardian lamented the loss of “vulgarity” associated with prizes. The paper’s critic, Jonathan Jones, condemened the attempt to “abolish the line between outside and inside” of the art establishment.

From such perspectives, it seems, the iconoclasm of contemporary art can only go so far. Challenge everything … except who gets the right to have their work displayed and their vocies heard.

Fortunately, anyone attending the show at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, as the Counterpoints team did recently, is likely to take the work on its own terms.

Curated by Hammad Nasar, it is an exhibition that raises big questions. It requires concentration, attention and a willingness to question what you might think you know. It is funny. Beautiful. Moving. You come out feeling that your view of the world has been altered.

The work reflects the way that the world has changed and suggests that the art world is changing too. Curators are starting to recognise the need to reflect and engage with different perspectives and approaches, not just through community outreach but in their main programming.

For too long socially engaged practice has been forced into the margins and held as somehow less important, less serious.

Lets hope the 2021 Turner Prize marks a point where that is no longer the case.

The Turner Prize exhibition runs at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry until 12 January 2022.

The shortlisted artists are: Array Collective; Black Obsidian Sound System; Cooking Sections; Gentle/Radical ; Project Art Works.

Image credit: Gentle/Radical