Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Helen Cammock, Tai Shani and Oscar Murillo will share this year’s Turner Prize after collectively asking the judges not to select a single winner. Each will receive a quarter of the £40,000 prize pot.
In a powerful, socially-motivated, and at times politically-charged, speech made on behalf of the four winners during the prize giving ceremony at Dreamland in Margate, Cammock explained that “after a number of discussions we came to the collective decision that we the four nominated artists are all winners of this year’s Turner Prize 2019.”
Thanking Tate and the Turner Prize jury “for supporting us in recognising the merits of this decision,” Cammock continued:
“This year the jury has selected a group of artists who are all engaged in social and participatory practice. We believe when grouped together such practices become incompatible with the competition format whose tendency is to divide and individualise.
“Placing in contention the issues in our work would undermine our individual efforts to show a world entangled. The issues we each deal with are as inseparable as climate chaos is from capitalism.
“We each seek to use art to push the edges of issues, mapping the bleed of one into another across time, across sentimentalities, across the realm of the real and the imagined, and through walls and borders.
“The Turner Prize is given to a British artist or artist working in Britain. This year, as it has often done in the past, the prize has sought to expand what it means to be British. We find this significant in an era marked by the rise of the right and the renewal of fascism, in an era of the Conservative’s hostile environment that has paradoxically made each of us and many of our friends and family members again increasingly unwelcome in Britain.
“And this is supported by an environment of normalised racism and the ideologically driven brutality of austerity, the privatisation of social services and health care, the destruction of education, a corrupt media and the prioritisation of corporate interests above all else.
“Isolation and exclusion are the weapons of this hostile environment. It has been this we seek to make a stand against in making this symbolic gesture of cohesion.
“None of us had met each other prior to the Turner Prize nomination, but on our initial meeting we quickly realised the shared ethos that runs across our very different practices.
“When there is already so much that divides people, we feel strongly motivated to use the occasion of the Turner Prize to make a collective statement in the name of commonality, multiplicity and solidarity in art as in society.”
The Turner Prize jury, which included Alessio Antoniolli, director, Gasworks and Triangle Network, Elvira Dyangani Ose, director of The Showroom Gallery and lecturer in visual cultures at Goldsmiths, Victoria Pomery, director of Turner Contemporary, Margate, where this year’s prize exhibition takes place, and Charlie Porter, writer, praised the artists for their commitment to the collective power of art.
In a statement the judges said: “We are honoured to be supporting this bold statement of solidarity and collaboration in these divided times. Their symbolic act reflects the political and social poetics that we admire and value in their work.”
Jury chair and director of Tate Britain Alex Farquharson added that the artists had given judges a lot to think about, but that they were “overwhelmingly excited” by the request.
“It is very much in the spirit of these artists’ work to challenge convention, to resist polarised world views, and to champion other voices. The jury all felt that this made the collective a worthy winner of the Turner Prize.”
Whilst this is a significant moment in the history of the Turner Prize, it is not the first time a major art prize has been shared by all shortlisted artists. In 2015, Theaster Gates was announced as winner of Artes Mundi 6 but immediately proclaimed he would share the £40,000 award with the nine other artists shortlisted for the biennial prize, saying: “Let’s split this motherfucker!”
The Turner Prize 2019 exhibition continues at Turner Contemporary, Margate, until 21 January 2020. turnercontemporary.org
Turner Prize 2019 winning artists Tai Shani, Oscar Murillo, Helen Cammock and Lawrence Abu Hamdan.