Elizabeth Price Wins the Turner Prize 2012

Turner Prize 2012 recipient Elizabeth Price, Turner Prize Awards Night, December 3 2012. Photo: Lucy Dawkins, Tate Photography

The Turner Prize 2012 has been awarded to a videographer who admits that she failed her art school exams, considered giving up on ever being an artist, and only found her creative groove in her forties—just under the wire to be eligible for the award.

“The idea that I would be nominated for the Turner Prize was just absurd, preposterous. Completely off the map,” Price, 46, told The Guardian after receiving the award at a glamorous ceremony at the Tate Gallery in London on 3 December 2012. 

The Turner Prize is awarded to a British artist under fifty, for an outstanding exhibition or other presentation of work in the twelve months leading up to the nomination deadline. It is widely recognised as one of the most prestigious visual arts awards in the world.

Price collected the £25,000 prize ($40,000) for her video installation The Woolworth’s Choir Of 1979. It is a seemingly disjointed installation, comprised of three separate and distinct bodies of material: photographs of church architecture, Internet clips of pop performances by the 1960s girl band the Shangri-Las, and news footage of a notorious 1979 fire in a Woolworth’s furniture department that left ten people dead. Price weaves these components into a powerfully compelling trilogy that bridges social history and fantasy.

A news release issued by the Tate Britain said, “The jury admired the seductive and immersive qualities of Price’s video trilogy, which reflects the ambition that has characterised her work in recent years. They were impressed by the way Price creates a rhythmic and ritualistic experience through film installations, which combine different material and technical vocabularies ranging from archival footage and popular music videos to advertising.”

Price was shortlisted for the Turner Prize 2012 along with Spartacus Chetwynd, Luke Fowler and Paul Noble, who will each receive £5,000 ($8,000). The prize is open to all artists working in the United Kingdom, and to British-born artists who may be working abroad. It was established in 1984 by the Patrons of New Art, and is intended to promote public discussion of new developments in contemporary British art.

At the party prior to the awards ceremony, Price said she was surprised to be nominated, “but it was a really nice surprise, actually. The thing that was really great about it was the opportunity to do an exhibition at the Tate, and also to make an exhibition that so many people would come to see. That’s not necessarily always available to us as artists—to reach such a wide audience, to reach such a broad audience.” 

Price began her artistic journey working in sculpture in the late 1980s, but felt the work was, “too polite, too nervous,” she told the media. “It's not like I am. It’s not pissed-off about things. The jokes aren’t the jokes I find funny. It’s too self-conscious, and not direct enough and not candid enough.” It wasn’t until she started producing videos that she felt “emancipated.”

She says being nominated for the Turner “is a huge boost to your career…Suddenly this thing that you’ve been doing in that first-floor warehouse off the Hackney Road is on telly. So you have this sense of being an advocate for contemporary art.”

The Turner Prize has often attracted controversy and criticism, due to exhibits such as The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living: a shark in formaldehyde by Damien Hirst, and My Bed: a dishevelled bed by Tracey Emin.

An exhibition featuring the four shortlisted artists is at the Tate Britain until 6 January 2013.

Turner Prize 2012 recipient Elizabeth Price, Turner Prize Awards Night, December 3 2012. Photo: Lucy Dawkins, Tate Photography


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