Solidarity and community: Array Collective wins the Turner Prize in Britain


Array Collective, 11 Northern Ireland-based artists, won Britain's prestigious Turner Prize on Dec 1, the first artists from the British province to claim the award in a year dominated by collaborations.

It beat out competition from four other groups shortlisted – the first time the final contenders for the often controversial visual arts prize have all been collectives.

Belfast-based Array, which has been working together actively since 2016, produces varied artworks – from banners to performances – in response to contemporary issues affecting Northern Ireland.

"We are so proud to be from Belfast, to be of Belfast, and the communities we work with," member Stephen Millar said as the group accepted the award at a televised ceremony in Coventry, central England.

Works by all five of the shortlisted nominees have been on display at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry – currently UK City of Culture – from late September until mid-January.

Tate Britain director Alex Farquharson, who chairs the Turner Prize jury, commended Array for tackling everything from LGBT and feminist issues to Northern Irish sectarianism in their art.

The Array Collective took the Turner Prize on Dec 1 for “The Druithaib’s Ball,” a recreation of a traditional Irish shebeen, or speakeasy full of references to 100 years of Northern Ireland history. Photo: APThe Array Collective took the Turner Prize on Dec 1 for “The Druithaib’s Ball,” a recreation of a traditional Irish shebeen, or speakeasy full of references to 100 years of Northern Ireland history. Photo: AP

"What they deal with is really serious stuff," he told the prize ceremony.

"What the jury feels is remarkable is that amazing lightness of touch and play and conviviality, and sense of hospitality and the sense of carnival that they bring to the work."

Established in 1984, the prize is named after the great British land and seascape painter JMW Turner and is designed to promote public interest in contemporary art.

The winner is awarded £25,000 (RM141,000) with £10,000 (RM56,000) going to each of the others shortlisted.

Last year's award was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic, and organisers split the total prize money among 10 nominees.

Over the years, it has courted headlines because of installations including an unmade bed and works made from elephant dung and human hair.

In 2019, the four shortlisted artists sent a plea to judges to award the prize to them all jointly, explaining they had formed a collective to show solidarity at a time of global "political crisis", including Brexit.

This year's other nominees included Black Obsidian Sound System, a London-based collective of radical art activists, and Cooking Sections, a London duo creating food-inspired art installations.

Gentle/Radical, a Welsh collective using art for social change, and Project Art Works, based in the south of England, were also shortlisted.

Along with Array, the collectives all "work closely and continuously with communities across the breadth of the UK", Tate Britain, which organises the award, previously said.

The prize jury also chose the five for reflecting "the solidarity and community demonstrated in response to the pandemic". – AFP

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