Friday, December 02, 2005

God knows I'm the last person that should be called upon to stand up and defend the Turner Prize, but wasn't Waldemar Januszczak (crazy name, crazy guy)'s attack on it on The Culture Show yesterday evening just the teensiest bit mean-spirited?

1. It's tacky.

Based on the, admittedly rather crap, Gordon's Gin 'Judge for Yourself' Tour which is going round a couple of railway stations and giving away free glasses of gin to people while they look at a small exhibition of the various artists. But isn't that rather like saying the British Library is crap because a small village library doesn't have a book you're after? OK, that's not one of my better analogies, but an argument against the Turner Prize starts by railing against a small part that has no connection to who wins the prize? It's not going well is it?

2. Winning the Turner Prize is no longer a good career move.

As highlighted by going through the list of winners and finding Mr 1992, Grenville Davey, didn't do much afterwards and now is a landscape gardener. Januszczak doesn't mention Rachel Whiteread (1993), Damien Hurst (1995), Chris Ofili (1998) or Grayson Perry (2003) because, after all, where on earth are any of them now? Januszczak also phones Davey for a chat, though seems quick to hang up when it seems that Davey neither regrets winning the Turner or blames it for his subsequent career trajectory.

3. It's unrepresentative of what's going on in British art.

I couldn't comment on whether this is true or not. They reckon Dr Johnson was the last man around who could have claimed to have read every book ever written by that point in time, and all prizes, awards and recognitions for everything will always leave people out either deliberately or by accident. It's like the Mercury Music Prize alwasy has one classical artist and some folk and then gives the award to either a rock group or an electronica group. Yes, I agree, what is shedboatshed doing in there? Unfortunately, I quite like Black Square.

4. It's a lottery as to who wins and who loses, there's never a convincing reason as to what makes the winner.

See question three.

I get the feeling that Januszczak could turn out to be my Richard Dawkins of the art world. If Januszczak keeps going on about the Turner Prize long enough then I may start to think it's worthwhile, in much the same way that Dawkins makes me feel more sympathetic to the Creationists. I'm going to Tate Britain tomorrow, I wasn't planning on seeing it but after watching that little piece I'm tempted to pop in and have a look at the nominees work.


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