PRINT September 1998

International News

the Turner Prize nominees

THE £20,000 ($32,000) TURNER PRIZE, sponsored annually by the Tate Gallery and underwritten by Channel 4, the national TV broadcaster, is the highest profile and therefore most controversial of Britain’s contemporary art prizes. Imagine the shock when this year’s shortlist was announced on July i and everyone in the art world seemed to approve. The four artists under consideration are Cathy de Monchaux, Sam Taylor-Wood, Tacita Dean, and Chris Ofili.

Figurative painters rarely make the Turner shortlist, so Ofili is something of an exception. However, there’s little of the academy in Ofili’s elaborate, funky paintings with their glittery-patterned surfaces emblazoned with Afro heads, big-busted pinups, and dollops of elephant dung. Not only are his paintings lusciously beautiful, they also pack a punch about stereotyping of all kinds, whether sexual, racial, or artistic.

De Monchaux is the most established and widely exhibited of all the artists. But lately she has been just as likely to scale up her small, emotionally charged sculptures of intricately fashioned metal, fabric, and leather into walk-in and floor-covering pieces that splice fetishistic detail with an austere minimalism.

Dean is the least familiar internationally as well as at home. Her films, storyboards, and blackboard drawings often use the sea as a starting point for fanciful tales. Narratives are also suggested in Taylor-Wood’s videos and photographs, which play off the emotional intensity of ambiguous relationships. One personal connection that, to some minds, is less than ambiguous is the presence of Pet Shop Boy Neil Tennant on the jury. He commissioned one of Taylor-Wood’s video projections for a concert last June. So far, this has created the only ripple of disapproval surrounding this year’s Turner nominees. The recipient will be announced on December 1.

Louisa Buck