French artist Laure Prouvost surprise winner of Turner Prize for tea party piece
Prestigious art award presented in Derry, its first time outside Britain
Prouvost was one of a shortlist of four artists, the others being Tino Sehgal, David Shrigley and Lynette Yaidom-Boakye. Two of the five judges are Irish, Eindhoven-based curator Annie Fletcher and NCAD lecturer Declan Long. It is the first time that the Turner exhibition has been held off the British mainland.
The annual prize, which has often been controversial, is given to an artist under 50, “born, living or working in Britain.” Sehgal quickly emerged as the clear favourite on the shortlist. He had, after all won the coveted main prize at this year’s Venice Biennale. But Prouvost, something of a dark horse, has a wildly inventive streak, a creative energy that is very appealing and makes her a worthy winner.
In the exhibition she shows darkly humorous film installations inspired by the great Dadaist artist Kurt Schwitters’ final years in the English Lake District, brilliantly mingling fact and fantasy. It may sound abstruse but in the event it is highly entertaining. Prouvost invents notional grandparents for herself: her grandfather an avant-garde artist in the Schwitters mould, her grandmother a publicly supportive but privately frustrated ally. Their complementary stories are told in two frenetic, very funny and also genuinely moving films, delivered with great brio. They say a great deal about emotional and intellectual life.
Although French by birth, Prouvost studied film and art in London and is based there. The three runners up each receive £5000.
The exhibition venue is in a specially adapted building on the huge, 26-acre complex of Ebrington, a former army base on the east bank of the Foyle. Ebrington is the focus of a huge programme of civic and cultural regeneration, but controversy has arisen over future plans for the building that currently houses the Turner Prize exhibition, due to end on January 5th next. Many people, including artist Willie Doherty and NCAD Director Declan McGonagle - both from Derry and both formerly shortlisted for the Turner Prize - argue that the gallery, part of the Ebrington complex of ex-military buildings, should be retained as a gallery.
A reported £2.5 million has been spent on shaping the gallery. However, Ilex, the company responsible for the long-term development of the Ebrington site, says it is earmarked for office and related spaces as part of a digital hub.