helen marten wins the 2016 turner prize
The 31-year-old artist took home this year’s award.
Fresh from winning the Hepworth Prize, Helen Marten has scored her second big art world win in one month. After she picked up the inaugural Hepworth honor — a new prize awarded for sculpture — she shared the prize money with her fellow nominees. She confirmed she'd do the same for the Turner, sharing its £25,000 prize with the other shortlisted artists, Anthea Hamilton, Josephine Pryde, and Michael Dean. Marten has stated she wants to do this quietly, and not "politicize that gesture."
Marten was nominated for her exhibition Lunar Nibs at the 56th Venice Biennale, and her solo exhibition Eucalyptus Let Us In at Green Naftali in New York. Marten, the youngest nominee this year, is known for dense and complex installation works, assembled from fragments, pieces, and everyday items; there's a beguiling beauty in them, an uncomfortable narrative absence sits in their center. 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."
Renowned 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