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The One To Watch – Turner Prize

It's coming to Liverpool for the first time ever. But what's the story?

Published on October 19th 2007.

The One To Watch – Turner Prize

The Turner Prize? Is that something you win for fashioning wood into vases and birds?
Philistine. This is nothing to do with wood turning and lathes . ..

Oh, you mean the big art award that courts controversy?
YES! Staged by Tate Britain it has become one of the biggest annual events in the conceptual art calendar.

So what's it got to do with Liverpool? Nothing usually. But this year it's being moved here from London – in the run up to 08.

Bit of a coup for Liverpool then? You could say that. In fact the Tate's London boss, Stephen Deuchar, says: “I am often asked why on earth I was prepared to let the Turner Prize go to Liverpool for a year.”

Who on earth asks him that? Good point. Yeh, you and who's army, mate?

Calm down. You were saying? The TP is always a talking point. Past winners include some Gormley men doing somersaults; an empty room with the lights going on and off, and Shedboatshed, a shed which turned into a boat, paddled up the Rhine and then turned into a boat again. It's creator, Simon Starling, got 25 grand for that.

That's clever. You're not kidding.

What about the Brat art Brit pack? Do you mean Damien Hirst's pickled cow and Tracy Emin's unmade bed? Ah yes, such works are what makes the TP and Brit Brats famous.

Is it to everyone's taste? Not quite. In 1994, the K Foundation famously invited the public to vote for the worst artist of the year. The prize being offered was £40,000 which was double the £20,000 then offered for the Turner Prize. Rachel Whiteread's “House” won both. The artist initially refused to accept the K Foundation prize, but after being told that the money would be incinerated, she reluctantly accepted. There is also a group called The Stuckists who say: “If Turner were alive today he would have no chance of winning the Turner Prize and would be spinning in his grave.”

Or spinning on his lathe? He probably wouldn't win that sort of turner prize either.

So what's in store for Liverpool? The four finalists are Zarina Bhimji, Nathan Coley, Mike Nelson and Mark Wallinger. You can see what they are about when the Turner exhibition opens on October 19. Winner TBA in December.

Do say: I can see that you have put together a clear and engaging account of the physical and metaphysical influences of 21st century concepts and your ideas behind the work are as important as, if not more than, its physical existence.

Don't say: Where's its tail?

Turner Prize exhibition: Tate Liverpool, Albert Dock, October 19 onwards.

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