Sunday, May 09, 2021

A major change in those shortlisted for the Turner Prize

Last week, Tate Britain announced the shortlist for the Turner Prize 2021 - and the shortlist comprises five art collectives.

One of the world’s best-known prizes for the visual arts, the Turner Prize aims to promote public debate around new developments in contemporary British art. Established in 1984, the prize is named after the radical British painter JMW Turner (1775-1851). The Turner Prize winner is awarded £25,000 with £10,000 going to each of the others shortlisted. 

This year they seem to be in two minds about whether it's about art or a very wide definition of the visual arts.

I've absolutely no problem with 

  • the prize being about the Visual Arts 
  • or with it focusing on arts grounded in the community 
I do have a problem with the use of the term "art" - and then shutting out of all those engaged in the fine arts of drawing and painting!!

As in historically, the Turner Prize jury has shortlisted four artists for an outstanding exhibition or other presentation.

I must confess I increasingly think that the organisers are interpreting its intent to be more and more about "The Arts" as opposed to art. Otherwise, why would they be substituting for the British Film Institute in providing recognition and prizes for films? Alternatively why isn't Tate Britain joining forces with the BFI if it intends to include the ubiquitous 'film' as media for future shortlists.

My personal view is that the current version of the Prize should become wholly independent of Tate Britain (and instead be run by a collegiate co-operative of different organisations relevant to the Visual Arts - including video / sound / film / digital arts / broadcast media) and Tate Britain should go back to providing a prize for contemporary fine art - including fine arts which increasingly get excluded and left on the fringe.

In other words "Contemporary Fine Art" is NOT "The Arts" - and this is not the Oscars or any of the other awards associated with popular arts-related culture!

Shortlist for the Turner Prize 2021

This year, the shortlist consists entirely of art collectives who have been listed for their recent projects and activities.

I'm guessing this has partly been prompted by the major absence of exhibition for most of 2020/21 - and hence the usual basis for selection evaporated. They could hardly make a selection based solely on those who were lucky enough to have an exhibition open in the very tight window of last summer.

So the Turner Prize organisers have made a positive out of a negative

“One of the great joys of the Turner Prize is the way it captures and reflects the mood of the moment in contemporary British art. After a year of lockdowns when very few artists have been able to exhibit publicly, the jury has selected five outstanding collectives whose work has not only continued through the pandemic but become even more relevant as a result.” Alex Farquharson, Director of Tate Britain and Chair of the Turner Prize jury

The nominees - who will each be receiving at least £10,000 each - are:

  • Array Collective, 
  • Black Obsidian Sound System, 
  • Cooking Sections, 
  • Gentle/Radical, and 
  • Project Art Works.

Turner Prize Exhibition

The other change is that the exhibition will not visit Tate Britain.

An exhibition of the Collectives' work will be held at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry from 29 September 2021 to 12 January 2022 as part of the UK City of Culture 2021 celebrations. 

The winner of the Turner Prize will be announced on 1 December 2021 at an award ceremony at Coventry Cathedral covered on the BBC.

The members of the 2021 Turner Prize jury are:
  • Aaron Cezar, Director, Delfina Foundation
  • Kim McAleese, Programme Director, Grand Union
  • Russell Tovey, Actor
  • ZoĆ© Whitley, Director, Chisenhale Gallery
  • Alex Farquharson, Director, Tate Britain (Chair)

Shortlisted Art Collectives

All the nominees work closely and continuously with communities across the breadth of the UK to inspire social change through art. The collaborative practices selected for this year’s shortlist also reflect the solidarity and community demonstrated in response to the pandemic

Below is the information provided about each collective - PLUS

  • The names of those identified in the extended press release
  • the address and screenshot of their website (where this could be identified).


  • Website:
  • Location: a group of Belfast-based artists
  • Participants: Array Collective comprises: Sighle Bhreathnach-Cashell, Sinéad Bhreathnach-Cashell, Jane Butler, Alessia Cargnelli, Emma Campbell, Mitch Conlon, Clodagh Lavelle, Grace McMurray, Stephen Millar, Laura O'Connor and Thomas Wells. The collective is based and predominantly works in Belfast. 
  • Focus: create collaborative actions in response to issues affecting Northern Ireland. Their work encompasses performances, protests, exhibitions and events.
  • Projects: recent public artworks include those in support of 
    • the decriminalization of abortion in Northern Ireland, 
    • challenging legislative discrimination of the queer community, and 
    • participation in the group exhibition Jerwood Collaborate! in London.  
The jury commended the way Array Collective fuse seriousness with humour, and address contemporary issues using ancient folk imagery.


Black Obsidian Sound System (B.O.S.S.) 
  • Website: ??
  • Location: a London-based collective - formed by and for QTIBPOC (Queer, Trans and Intersex Black and People of Colour)
  • Participants:  Black Obsidian Sound System are Adedamola, Kiera Coward-Deyell, Phoebe Collings-James, Deborah Findlater, Evan Ifekoya, Onyeka Igwe, Jenny Edmunds, Marcus Macdonald, Mwen, Nadz, Naeem, Mumbi Nkonde, Shenece Oretha, Nadine Peters, Shamica Ruddock, Shy One and Virginia Wilson. The
    collective is based and predominantly work in London, England.
  • Focus: works across art, sound and radical activism. B.O.S.S. challenges the dominant norms of sound-system culture across the African diaspora through club nights, art installations, technical workshops and creative commissions.
  • Projects: Recent projects include 
    • live events at Somerset House
    • a Lux/ICO film commission Collective Hum, documenting the polyphony of collectivity. 
  • Participants
The jury praised B.O.S.S.’s live performances and their commitment to community, including an online 24-hour fundraising rave, organised in part by members of the collective.


  • Website:
  • Location: a London-based duo
  • Participants:  Cooking Sections comprises Daniel Fernández Pascual and Alon Schwabe, both of whom live and work in London.
  • Focus: examining the systems that organise the world through food. Using installation, performance and video, they explore the overlapping boundaries between art, architecture, ecology and geopolitics.
  • Recent Projects
    • a sound, light and sculpture installation at Tate Britain in 2020 reflecting on salmon farming, 
    • an ongoing installation-performance in the Isle of Skye which sees an underwater oyster table turn into a community dining space at low tide. 
The jury applauded the ingenuity of their long-term CLIMAVORE project asking how our diet can respond to the climate emergency. 


  • Website:
  • Location: a project based in Cardiff run by artists, community workers, performers, faith practitioners, writers and others
  • Participants:Founded by Rabab Ghazoul, Gentle/Radical works out of Riverside, Cardiff, and builds alliances with collaborators and associates in their city, in Wales, the UK and beyond, currently to include: Mary-Anne Roberts, Adeola Dewis, Roseanna Dias, Stephen Lingwood, Isabel Calvete, Tom Goddard, Mohamad Fez Miah, Melissa Hinkin, Samson Hart, Anushiye Yarnell, Christian J. Olsen, Ahmad Nabil, Divya Parikh, Tony Hendrickson, Rachel Kinchin, Laura Drane.
  • Focus: advocating for art as a tool for social change. They create real and virtual spaces for communities in Wales to engage with culture.
  • Projects: Recent activities include
    • Doorstep Revolution, an ongoing project to share neighbourhood stories during lockdown; 
    • the Gentle/Radical Film Club, a pop-up cinema space for diverse communities to engage in dialogues around the urgent issues of our time through independent film.

The jury admired their deep commitment to the hyper-local community of Riverside in which they are based.


Home Page of the Project Art Works website

  • Website:
  • Location: a collective of neurodiverse artists and makers based in Hastings.
  • Focus: They explore art through collaborative practice with, for and by neurominorities and disseminate their work through exhibitions, events, films and digital platforms. Through advocacy and activism in culture and care they seek to ensure that people with complex support needs have agency in their civic and creative lives.
  • Projects: Recent projects include 
    • the film Illuminating the Wilderness 2019, which follows members of the collective with their families and carers exploring a remote Scottish glen.
The jury praised their continuing work through the pandemic, both online and in a residency at Hastings Contemporary where passers-by could still encounter work by the collective through the windows of the closed gallery.
Neurodiverse is a term used to acknowledge different states of understanding and living in the world. Neurodivergence and neurominorities are terms that embrace autistic people and/or those who have learning or intellectual disabilities.

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