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Who’s Shocking Now?

Article relating to an exhibition, 2007
Published by: Guardian
Year published: 2007
Number of pages: 12

image of Who’s Shocking Now?

Innovative telling of the story of the Turner Prize, told through profiles of each of the winners thus far, most of whom are interviewed for the piece. Who’s Shocking Now?  by Charlotte Higgins appeared in Guardian Weekend magazine, 8 September 2007, pp.18 - 35. Many of the artists themselves are, within the feature decidely critical of the Turner Prize, even though winning the prize was invariably a major boost to an artist’s career and profile. The cover of the magazine featured a portrait of Damien Hirst, with the words, “A stupid, corrupt horse race” ‘The Turner Prize, according to Damien Hirst. What do the other 21 winners think?’ Overleaf, on the contents page, the piece was trailed as Shock therapy When it began in 1984, the Turner prize sparked controversy. Today, it is the world’s best known art award. But what does it mean for the artists? We ask all the past winners how it changed their lives.

Damien Hirst’s contribution, trailed not only on the cover, was further expanded in a lower section of the contents page. “The Turner prize I’ve never much liked the idea of an art prize. It’s just elitist crap for the media, and it’s fixed anyway. Winning didn’t change my life at all. At least that’s what I’m telling you. But actually, when I’m on my own in the studio, I still can’t stop singing Simply the Best.”

Portraits of the winners appear alongside the respective sections on each winner.  The article began with, “’Like being a Holocaust survivor’, ‘All a bit crap’, ‘A homecoming’, ‘Nice for the parents’ - as a retrospective exhibition gathers up the work of the 22 winners of the Turner prize, Charlotte Higgins asked them all what it was really like to win the world’s best known art award.” The Turner Prize: A Retrospective ran from 2 October - 6 January 2008 at Tate Britain.

Nothing is made of the politics of race within the visual arts within Who’s Shocking Now? For instance, that when Indian-born sculptor Anish Kapoor won the Turner Prize in 1991, he was the first non British born artist to do so. Or that when Chris Ofili was shortlisted for the Turner Prize exhibition of 1998, held at Tate Britain, from late October 1998 to early January the following year, he became the first British-born Black artist to be so honoured. The other shortlisted artists – Sam Taylor–Wood, Cathy de Monchaux, and Tacita Dean – were also of the yBa generation that had come, and indeed would continue, to dominate Tuner Prize shortlists. The award was, in due course, made to Ofili, who had, according to the official Tate publicity of the time, been shortlisted “for the inventiveness, exuberance, humour and technical richness of his painting, with its breadth of cultural reference, as revealed in his solo exhibition at Southampton City Art Gallery and in Sensation at the Royal Academy, London.” (1) Ofili went on to win the Turner Prize and in this endeavour his painting, No Woman No Cry, (which was the star of his display) helped him. A reproduction of the piece, rather than a portrait of Ofili himself, accompanied his section of Who’s Shocking Now.

The winner the following year, 1999, Steve McQueen was, in this feature, still being discussed in terms of Tracey Emin, rather than in terms of McQueen himself. In 1999, Emin not winning the Turner prize was considered more of a story than the winning of the prize itself, by McQueen. The section on McQueen was introduced thus: “This was the Turner prize remembered for the artist who didn’t win: Tracey Emin. The public and press reaction to her notorious bed, with its soiled sheets and bloody knickers, was delight and horror in equal measure. The headline in the Mirror was “Turnoff Prize,” but Emin boasted of making enough money to pack up and retire. The prize in fact went to the art world’s favourite, Steve McQueen.”

(1) See The Turner Prize 1998 (exh. cat.; London: Tate Gallery Publishing 1998)

Related people + view all 23

»  Martin Creed

Born, 1968 in Wakefield, England

»  Richard Deacon

Born, 1949 in Bangor, Wales

»  Jeremy Deller

Born, 1966 in London

»  Chris Ofili

Born, 1968 in Manchester, UK