Turner Prize 2009: And The Winner Is…

Another year and another Turner prize, just where does the time go? Despite being a British award, and now only awarded to artists under 50 years old, winning a Turner prize is still like winning Best Film at the Oscars. Okay, £20.000 doesn’t go a long way these days, but winning the Turner prize allows an artist to quadruple the price of their work, secure major exhibitions, find their own spot in artist heaven, have a free dinner or two cooked by Nigella Lawson, and of course they can sell a shit load to Charles Saatchi if he doesn’t already own it all.

Now in its 25th year, the nominees are Enrico David, Roger Hiorns, Lucy Skaer and Richard Wright. And just for you Jack of Hearts has written a quick lowdown, covering differing perspectives, that will hopefully give you a kick start in forming your opinion of the infamous competition.

Enrico David (aged 43)
Painting / Drawing

What he does: Camp and theatrical figures (pictured below), often embroidered, with blank block-colour backgrounds, reminiscent of costume design textbooks. His cuddly and cute materials often present a strange contrast against the svelte and rather sexualised postures of his subjects.
A critic’s view: “The force of structural consideration that David’s words implies seems to be absent from a flimsily realised work.” – The List
A cynic’s view: A bit like the pictures you would see in the toilets of a Stratford-upon-Avon grill house.
Jack of Heart’s nutshell: Tasteful in all senses, but with a twist.

Roger Hiorns (aged 34)

What he does: Experiments with fluids, substances and chemicals. Successfully magnetised a lot of media attention for his 2008 installation Seizure, in which a Southwark council flat was filled with copper sulphate crystals (pictured above). The Emerald City meets Jobseeker’s allowance.
A critic’s view: “An artist of emissions, of excesses, of the uncontrollable” – Adrian Searle, art critic at The Guardian.
A cynic’s view: Oh my, what a mess he’s made. Call the contract cleaners immediately! Let’s hope Mr. Muscle does the art we hate.
Jack of Heart’s nutshell: Blue da-ba-dee, the quirkiest of this year’s bunch.

Lucy Skaer (aged 34)
Drawing / Sculpture / Film / Anything really

What she does: Creates largely graphite-based drawings that examine trauma, tragedy and biology, often sourcing and incorporating photojournalism. Newspaper photos, images from books and even internet images are an inspiration. She once placed moth pupae in a courtroom hoping that they’d hatch during a trial.
A critic’s view: “At play here is our familiarity with the compositional structure of Venn diagrams, heraldry, oriental porcelain design and Rorsach ink blots.” – Scottish Arts Council
A cynic’s view: I’m sure this is all very interesting but I can’t be arsed to engage with it.
Jack of Heart’s nutshell: Media, crime, death and commerce.

Richard Wright (aged 49)
Wall paintings

What he does: Well, wall paintings, mainly. Large paintings that are incredibly detailed and challenge the commerciality of art. Wright, like Skaer, is a Glasgow-based artist, making it a very Scottish prize this year. History, typography and the physical space of the gallery all play a profound role in his work.
A critic’s view: “Wright has developed his own language through painting within which a wide spectrum of motifs and shapes create rhythms and phases” – Gagosian Gallery press release.
A cynic’s view: Another brick in the wall, didn’t Keith Tyson nail this genre a little while ago?
Jack of Heart’s nutshell: What they now call a “modern fresco painter”, but nothing special.

Who do you think might win? Do you have a favourite Turner prize winner of the past? I loved Vong Phaophanit’s 1993 nomination, although he was overtaken at the last hurdle by the famous Rachel Whiteread, (whose winning work has since enjoyed appearing on Becks’ beer stickers!). Gilbert & George are another Turner prize classic, currently a big visual inspiration to the Pet Shop Boys’ tour.

Fiona Banner is perhaps my least favourite Turner Prize nominee. As much as I love pornographic transcripts, I just can't get over how irritating her thumbnail portrait is in Taschen's 'Art Now' book.

The Turner Prize 2009 will be on display at Tate Britain in London from October 6th


Below: 'Stick of Rock', 1999, by David Enrico. Wool on dyed canvas. 300 x 240 cm.


  1. I MUST actually go and see the show this year. I always say Im going to and then I just dont lol. When is the winner announced? Can the public go to that?

  2. Benjamin J. O'Brien7 October 2009 at 19:55

    I will leave this to the pretentious liberals who need to pretend to like this rubbish because it adds them to the obnoxious elite/elitely obnoxious.