For Christmas, I would like a Chopper bike. And the Turner Prize.
The art world is often accused of sexism, but ageism too? There is no valid reason whatsoever why anyone’s gender, race, sexual proclivity, background, physical condition etc., etc., should preclude them from involvement in what ought to be THE most inclusive arena of all. Yet the Turner Prize – arguably the country’s highest profile art prize – is open only to artists under the age of fifty.
As one of those so obviously well and truly past it, I could never be nominated as things stand. And I believe I have every right to be aggrieved. Questioning this arbitrary limit, I looked into the reasons for it. The website states “There was no age limit at first, but in 1991 it was decided to restrict the Prize to artists under fifty, so that younger artists just setting out weren’t pitted against artists at the height of their careers”.
This is laudable, but it is not exactly joined-up thinking, is it? It assumes, wholly incorrectly, that all artists start their careers at a young age. I would think that a quick glance around every single art education institution in the country will quickly prove the need to repudiate this misjudgement. Furthermore, many, many artists are obliged to put their careers on hold for all kinds of perfectly legitimate reasons. Raising a family, to name but one. The latter inevitably increases the weighting in favour of young males. In fact, if we extrapolate perceptions of the effects of tuition fees, weighting will become in favour of young, white, middle-class males. Oops.
I didn’t start my art career until very recently, and, in only a couple of years, I’m doing O.K. thank you very much. I’m going all-out for it, because I am passionate about it. But I, nor anyone else in my position, no matter what we achieve in our practices, could ever be nominated for the Turner Prize.
May I suggest an alternative criterion? How about a maximum career length?