The 2016 Turner Prize is a Load of Old Arse

By James O Malley on at

What's wrong with just painting a pretty picture? The Turner Prize is Britain's biggest art prize, and each year awards £40,000 to winning artists under the age of 50. Named after the artist JMW Turner, who mostly used to paint smudgy pictures of ships, the prize has gained a reputation for celebrating the bizarre, the weird and the avant-garde.

Previous nominees include Martin Creed's Work No 227 won - it was a lightbulb switching on and off. Tracey Emin was famously nominated for an unmade bed. Yeah.

And if you're into a bunch of weird shit, then you're in for a treat this year. To find out more, I went down to the preview at Tate Britain to challenge my perception of what "art" even is. Here's a rundown of this year's nominees.

Helen Marten

The first artist you encounter in the exhibition is Helen Marten, with... whatever this is.

I think it represents despair.

According to the press release, "using sculpture, screen printing and writing Marten produces works that are full of models and motifs from contemporary visual culture. Her intricate and intriguing sculptures bring together a range of handmade and found objects as varied as cotton buds to fish skins, to create poetic visual puzzles."

That weird twitching in your face that you can feel is your brain simultaneously struggling to reconcile your strong belief that art for art's sake is a public good, with some scarily Daily Mail type thoughts about wondering whether this was funded by the taxpayer (as far as I can tell, it wasn't).

Anthea Hamilton

The next artist in the exhibition is Anthea Hamilton, who has created a work that will become the iconic Turner 2016 image – because it's a massive arse.

I think it represents despair.

Again, according to the press release because I'd have no idea what to write if not for that, "while rooted in the history of sculpture, her work engages the viewer by her humour and unexpected combination of images, materials and words". Hence the bum. Could this finally be the year that Goatse wins the biggest prize in art?

Josephine Pryde

Next up there's an altogether more wholesome experience, as Josephine Pryde has been nominated for this week - which includes a train.

I think it represents despair.

The model train, which is in DB Schenker livery, is titled The New Media Express in a Temporary Siding (Baby Wants To Ride). The carriages are apparently graffitied by artists from the cities the exhibition has previously visited.

And if you're wondering how Pryde celebrated her nomination for such a prestigious prize, she did what anyone would do: she took a bunch of kitchen worktops and put them out in the sun, so that the shape of whatever was on top would be burned into them, to mark the time between her nomination and the exhibition.


Michael Dean

The final nominated artist is Michael Dean, who like the best Oscar-bait, is using a serious subject to try to out-worthy the other nominees and steal the prize. This sculpture is titled United Kingdom poverty line for two adults and two children: twenty thousand four hundred and thirty six pounds sterling as published on 1st September 2016.

I think it represents despair. And it might actually do so this time.

As the title suggests, what he's done is take £22,436 in pennies, and splashed (sorry, 'sculpted') them out all over the floor – and then taken away a single penny to represent the amount of cash that would put a family of four under the poverty line. That's actually pretty clever.

I'm not entirely sure what all of the weird stuff on top of the money is, but hey, that's art.

If you want to go and check it out for yourself, the exhibition runs from tomorrow until the 2nd January 2017, and if you go on Tuesday there is no ticket price, it is "pay what you can". This is also apparently the first year the cameras are being allowed into the exhibition. Officially, this is because the Tate want you to Facebook Live your opinions about the art, but it also means that you can take a photo of yourself next to a massive arse, even if Piers Morgan is unavailable.

Update (22:50): This post originally, wrongly, claimed Tracey Emin won the prize. She didn't - she was only nominated, but her bed attracted a lot of attention.