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Tate Britain, London. Photo: morebyless/Flickr.

Turner Prize Canceled, Replaced by Fund for Struggling Artists

Britain’s Turner Prize will not be awarded this year. Instead of announcing the artists shortlisted for the prestigious contemporary art award, organizers revealed today that they have opted to call off the prize’s fall exhibition, which would have run from September 30 to January 3, 2021 and featured new work by the artists, and will instead divide its $123,000 program fund into $12,000 bursaries that will be given to ten artists affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Gallery closures and social distancing measures are vitally important, but they are also causing huge disruption to the lives and livelihoods of artists,” said Alex Farquharson, director of Tate Britain and chair of the prize’s jury. “The practicalities of organizing a Turner Prize exhibition are impossible in the current circumstances, so we have decided to help support even more artists during this exceptionally difficult time.” Citing nineteenth-century British artist J. M. W. Turner’s plan to leave his fortune to a charity for “decayed artists,” Farquharson said that he believes the prize’s namesake “would approve of our decision.”

The annual award program would have selected a winner for the more-than-$30,000 grand prize in December and presented the finalists with about $6,000 each. Last year, the exhibition was held at Turner Contemporary in Margate, and the accolade went to all four of the prize’s nominees—Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Helen Cammock, Oscar Murillo, and Tai Shani—after the artists asked the jury to consider them as a collective since they share a commitment to social causes. This year’s show was scheduled to return to Tate Britain, which hosts the award exhibition every other year.

In preparation for choosing the finalists, the jury—which comprised Richard Birkett, curator at large at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London; Sarah Munro, director of the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead; Fatos Üstek, director of the Liverpool Biennial; and designer and curator Duro Olowu—visited hundreds of exhibitions across the world over the last twelve months. The jury will now be responsible for selecting the ten recipients of the bursaries. “I appreciate visitors will be disappointed that there is no Turner Prize this year,” Farquharson said. “But we can all look forward to it returning in 2021.”

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