Classic Turner Prize – 1999

This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Tracey Emin – ‘My Bed’

Tracing the history of the Turner Prize through from its inception in 1984, until the present day, 1999 appears to be the year it really took off. A female’s bedroom hadn’t caused this much disturbance, since Jane Ayre – a joke for literature fans there – and the contest swiftly became a staple of the national conversation.

Tracey Emin’s ‘My Bed’ didn’t even win that year – Steve McQueen nabbed the prize for his video based on a Buster Keaton movie. But the dye was cast – henceforth the Turner Prize would primarily focus on antagonising the Daily Mail / Daily Telegraph, in the process inducing plenty of column inches on what exactly is or is not art. Which I suppose was the point of the whole thing in the first place. Job done.

Other crazy winners followed soon after, including 2001’s ‘The Lights Going On and Off’, which pretty much did as it said on the tin – a big, empty room with lights going on and off. <sigh>

This year’s shortlist is a little low on such high quality work, with the bookmakers heavily backing African Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s portrait of six imagined histories. The second favourite is Berlin-based Tino Seghal who is giving people £2 for entering his exhibition and discussing the economy. <sigh>

But we cannot see past the Ghanaian, who if she wins, could become the first black lady to claim the prize, an outcome which might grab the headlines instead of some crazy art for a change.

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