Turner Prize goes to Jesse Darling, a sculptor of mangled objects
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Turner Prize goes to Jesse Darling, a sculptor of mangled objects
Visitors view Jesse Darling’s artwork at the Towner Eastbourne art museum in Easborne, England on Oct. 10, 2023. The artist won the major British art award on Tuesday for works that warp commonplace items into “something you’ve never seen before.” (Jeremie Souteyrat/The New York Times)

by Alex Marshall

NEW YORK, NY.- Jesse Darling, a sculptor who makes scrappy installations out of mangled objects, won the Turner Prize on Tuesday at a ceremony at the Towner Eastbourne art museum in southern England. The museum is hosting an exhibition of works by the four artists nominated for the prestigious annual British award through April 14.

Alex Farquharson, the director of the Tate Britain museum and the chair of the prize jury, said in an interview that Darling, 41, manipulated banal objects in ingenious ways to produce work evoking a society on the verge of collapse.

“It’s always so impressive when an artist, using commonplace items, creates something you’ve never seen before,” Farquharson said.

Darling beat three other nominees, including Barbara Walker, who draws portraits of Black subjects, sometimes directly onto gallery walls, and Ghislaine Leung, an installation artist whose work highlights the difficulty of balancing motherhood with an art career. Also nominated was Rory Pilgrim, a multimedia artist and musician.

Darling, whose work also includes performance and digital elements, studied at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy, in Amsterdam, and at Central Saint Martins and the Slade School of Fine Art, two respected London schools. As well as making art, he told an interviewer in 2012, he had “done just about everything for money” including music journalism, sex work and stints as a chef.

He began gaining prominence in Britain in his 30s, exhibiting at the 2019 Venice Biennale and at the Tate Britain in London. The Turner Prize nomination, however, came for two solo shows at smaller institutions: Modern Art Oxford and Camden Art Center. He now lives in Berlin.

Several leading British art critics said that Darling should win the award after seeing the exhibition at Towner Eastbourne, where Darling’s contribution includes metal crowd barriers bent so they resemble animals crawling across the gallery floor or urinating against the walls.

Alastair Sooke, writing in The Daily Telegraph newspaper, said Darling’s work was “the most exhilarating” he had seen nominated for the Turner Prize in many years. Darling’s art “boils and bubbles with brilliant ideas and touches,” Sooke added.

Founded in 1984, the Turner Prize is one of the international art world’s major prizes. Many past winners, including Steve McQueen, Antony Gormley and Damien Hirst, have gone on to become stars. Yet in recent years, the Turner Prize has been disparaged for focusing on artists whose work had more to do with political activism than aesthetics.

Last year’s award was widely seen as a return to form: It went to Veronica Ryan, a sculptor whose work has been shown at the Whitney Biennial.

Darling will receive 25,000 pounds (about $31,500) in prize money. In a BBC interview last month, Darling said he did not know how he would spend it. “I might use it to retrain,” he said. Farquharson said that he hoped Darling was joking.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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