​helen marten wins 2016 turner prize

The 31-year-old artist took home this year’s award.

by Felix Petty
06 December 2016, 10:45am

Fresh from winning the Hepworth Prize earlier, Helen Marten has got her second big art world gong in one month. After she picked up the inaugural Hepworth Prize, a new prize awarded purely for sculpture, she shared the prize money amongst the other nominees. She confirmed she'd be doing the same for the Turner Prize, sharing the £25,000 prize with the other shortlisted artists, Anthea Hamilton, Josephine Pryde, and Michael Dean. She wanted to play it down though, stating she wanted to do it quietly, and not "politicise that gesture."

Helen was nominated for exhibitions Lunar Nibs at the 56th Venice Biennale, and the solo exhibition Eucalyptus Let Us In at Green Naftali in New York. Helen, the youngest nominee this year, is known for dense and complex installation works, assembled from fragments, pieces, everyday items; there's a beguiling beauty in them, an uncomfortable narrative absence sits in their centre. They are intense and immersive. The jury commended Helen's work for "its extraordinary range of materials and form" and its "poetic and enigmatic qualities".


art critic, failed Tory leadership candidate and fearless Brexiteer Michael Gove led the dissenting voices, who claimed that Helen's work was indicative of the "tragic emptiness of now", calling out the Turner Prize as "modish crap" and stating it has nothing to do with the legacy of JMW Turner himself. Luckily no one really pays much attention to the opinions of Michael Gove anymore, as Helen Marten is undeniably a incredibly deserving winner. But his controversial remarks hark back to a wilder time for the Turner Prize when it regularly picked up criticism from the tabloid press about the artists involved. Recent years have seen the award go to more considered, less shocking, artists, and with that, the contentiousness surrounding it has died down. 


Text Felix Petty
Portrait Juergen Teller

Michael Gove
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