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Turner Prize, felix the cat and homer simpson win turner prize, cartoons win turner prize
Sang Tan/AP
The installation 'Made in 'Eaven 2004', a 16mm silent film, by 2008 Turner Prize shortlisted
British artist Mark Leckey.

This Year’s Turner Prize: Worst Ever or More of the Same?

December 02, 2008 12:31 PM
by Rachel Balik
Some art critics believe this year’s Turner Prize for modern art marks an all-time low, but outrage over the artworks may be part of the package.

Cartoons Capture First Place At Turner Prize

In past years, Britain’s Turner Prize has gone to artists such as Chris Ofili, who put elephant dung on canvas, and Damien Hirst, who immersed the halves of a cow and calf in formaldehyde. For some reason, this year, critics are particularly enraged over the winner, Mark Leckey, who won for a video titled “Industrial Light and Magic.” The exhibition mixes film, performance and sculpture and features the cartoon character Felix the Cat, "The Simpsons" and a Honda car commercial.   

Leckey was favored to win by bookies, and Tate Britain’s director Dr. Stephen Deuchar asserted that the work was “challenging,” but would be appreciated by many. Deuchar believes that contemporary art should be “investigations or journeys.”

But critics are challenging whether Leckey, who has openly admitted to gaining inspiration from Felix the Cat and whose work borrows from an episode of “The Simpsons,” has brought anything original to the art scene.

Nevertheless, Leckey has achieved acclaim and success for past works, especially “Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore” (1999), a film about Britain’s dance culture.

Background: History of The Turner Prize and Nominees from the Short List

The Turner Prize is named after painter J.M.W. Turner, who was known for defying convention in his own day. When alive, he had wanted to establish a similar award for burgeoning British artists, but many questioned whether it made sense to name a modern prize after him. Today, Turner is a highly respected artist, whereas most Turner Prize contenders have been decidedly controversial and are often deemed shocking by some.

A May 2008 article in the Japan Times suggests that French artist Marcel Duchamp would more appropriately represent the prize. More information about the Turner Prize can be found in findingDulcinea’s feature about the shortlist.

Opinion and Analysis: Is This Year Any Different Than Last Year’s?

The Daily Mail indicates that perhaps the problem with this year’s Turner Prize is lack of controversy. Apparently, some people found the presentation this year “a little dull.” Many of the pieces of the past have been truly shocking or teetered on the grotesque or the ridiculous. Finalist Tracey Emin got attention for submitting her dirty bed as artwork, and Martin Reed won for a room that simply contained lights turning on and off. In light of these past exhibits, Leckey’s video montage of contemporary culture is unlikely to incite audiences and critics to have strong reactions.

Amid the outcry against this year’s winner, many critics dismiss this year’s prize as more of the same. In a blog post for Art Review, Ben Street points out that the Turner Prize yields the same kind of criticism every single year, and that abruptly dismissing the artwork is part of the tradition. He does note that this repeated cycle of bored rejection may mean that the prize has seen its peak, but not because of poor artwork quality. Rather, the lack of critical enthusiasm, positive or negative, for the prize could be its undoing. This year’s prize, he reports, was unable to find a sponsor.

Reference: findingDulcinea Fine Art Web Guide

The findingDulcinea Fine Art Web Guide offers information about art and its history, online museums, galleries, art magazines and how to buy and sell artwork.

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