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Turner Prize was canceled, but organizers still gave out the cash
Oreet Ashery, Revisiting Genesis (2016) at “Misbehaving Bodies: Jo Spence and Oreet Ashery” at the Wellcome Collection, London, 2019. Image courtesy of the artist and the Wellcome Collection, London.

by Alex Marshall

LONDON (NYT NEWS SERVICE).- A photographer who captures Black British life, an artist who works with industrial air conditioners and a mixed-media practitioner who made his mother the star of a show are among 10 artists being given grants of 10,000 pounds each (about $12,500) as a replacement for this year’s Turner Prize.

The prize, perhaps Britain’s most prestigious art accolade, is usually awarded each December after an exhibition displaying the work of four shortlisted artists. This year’s edition was canceled in May because of the coronavirus pandemic, and Tate Britain, its organizers, asked the jury to select artists to receive grants instead.

“Gallery closures and social distancing measures are vitally important, but they are also causing huge disruption to the lives and livelihoods of artists,” Alex Farquharson, the director of Tate Britain, said in a statement at the time.

He said that J.M.W. Turner — the 19th-century British artist the prize is named after — would have approved of sharing the prize money out so widely, since he “once planned to leave his fortune to support artists in their hour of need.”

The grant recipients include Liz Johnson Artur, a Ghanaian-Russian who photographs members of the African diaspora in London in settings like schools and nightlife; Oreet Ashery, an Israeli artist who has made films about preparing for the afterlife; and Shawanda Corbett, an American artist based in Oxford, England, who makes ceramics and performances, some of which have commented on slavery.

Sean Edwards, another recipient, is a Welsh artist who received media attention in Britain last year for an exhibition at the Venice Biennale that focused on his working-class upbringing. Every day during the show, his mother read a monologue from her home in a Wales housing project, and it was relayed to Venice and played aloud in a grand exhibition space.

The other winners are Arika, a political art collective based in Scotland; Jamie Crewe; Sidsel Meineche Hansen; Ima-Abasi Okon; Imran Perretta; and Alberta Whittle. (Okon is the artist who has worked with air conditioners.)

The Turner Prize was once a major event in Britain, though in recent years public interest has waned. Past winners have included Damien Hirst, Grayson Perry and Steve McQueen, the director of the movies “12 Years a Slave” and “Widows.”

But British newspapers still often use the prize as an excuse to poke fun at the art world, characterizing it as bizarre, overly political or out of touch. Last year, a decision to award the prize to all four shortlisted artists drew mixed reactions from commentators. In a statement, the artists said their work was “incompatible with the competition format, whose tendency is to divide and individualize.”

This year’s sum of 100,000 pounds, given out Monday, is more than double the usual total prize money. Usually, a winner receives 25,000 pounds and the others on the shortlist get 5,000 pounds each.

In a news release, Farquharson said he hoped the Turner Prize would return to its usual format in 2021.

© 2020 The New York Times Company

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