Since its inception in 1984, the Turner Prize has been given to one artist based in the United Kingdom annually. But in a first, this year’s prize went to all four artists shortlisted for the award.
At a ceremony on Tuesday at the Turner Contemporary art space in Margate, England, the award’s jury revealed that the four shortlisted artists—Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Helen Cammock, Oscar Murillo, and Tai Shani—had won as a collective. According to a release, the artists had banded together to request such a consideration in a sign of solidarity amid political upheaval around the world.
“None of us had met each other prior to the Turner Prize, however on our initial meeting in Margate, we quickly recognized the underlying shared ethos that runs across our otherwise very different practices,” the four artists wrote in a joint letter that was submitted to the jury earlier today and distributed to the press this evening. “At this time of political crisis in Britain and much of the world, when there is already so much that divides and isolates people and communities, we feel strongly motivated to use the occasion of the Prize to make a collective statement in the name of commonality, multiplicity and solidarity—in art as in society.”
Typically, the prize’s winner takes home £25,000 (about $32,500), and the shortlisted artists receive £5,000 (about $6,500). It was unclear, based on the release, how the funds would be distributed this year.
Alex Farquharson, the director of Tate Britain in London and the chair of the prize’s jury, said in a statement, “In coming together and presenting themselves as a group, this year’s nominated artists certainly gave the jury a lot to think about. But it is very much in the spirit of these artists’ work to challenge convention, to resist polarised world views, and to champion other voices.”
Also on the jury were Alessio Antoniolli, the director of the London alternative space Gasworks and the Triangle Network; Elvira Dyangani Ose, the director of the Showroom Gallery in London; Victoria Pomery, the director of Turner Contemporary; and writer Charlie Porter.
The collective win is a historic one, since the award—which tends to generate controversy and debate—has never been given to more than one artist. There had been potential for some of the nominees to make history in other ways, however. If Abu Hamdan, who is known for incisive installations that ponder the political implications of sound, had won alone, he would have become the first Arab artist to be given the award. And if Murillo, who makes scuffed-up abstractions alluding to capitalism’s chokehold on society today, had solely taken the prize, the 33-year-old artist would have been among the youngest winners. But now the two have won together, along with Cammock, whose video installations meditate on the impact of women during politically turbulent times, and Shani, whose sculptural installations, performances, and writings create a space for “womxn” (the term she has used in interviews, since it refers to trans and non-binary people as well).
In a different (and less notable) way, the prize’s exhibition was also something new. Having been held at Turner Contemporary, the exhibition marked the first time the Turner Prize show was held outside London. In 2020, the prize show will return to the British capital, where it will appear at Tate Britain.