Turner Prize 2021: Array Collective claims Turner Prize with Irish pub installation

Written by Oscar Holland, CNN

A group of 11 artists and activists won the prestigious Turner Prize after turning a gallery into an Irish pub.

Array Collective, which uses installations, artistic performances and events to explore social issues, was named this year’s winner at a ceremony in Coventry, UK on Wednesday.

Based in Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, the group is known for tackling topics affecting the region, including its restrictive abortion laws, religious divisions and the history of bigotry.

The award-winning artwork “The Druithaib’s Ball” saw the collective recreate a “síbín” – an illegal drinking bar or an “unlicensed pub”, as the artists put it – to mark 100 years of the score. Ireland.

Originally located in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the pub at the center of “The Druithaib’s Ball” has been recreated at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry, UK. Credit: David Levene

Like much of the group’s earlier work, the installation combined contemporary art and historic folk imagery, with a circular arrangement of flag poles hinting at ancient Irish ceremonial sites. Posters and photographs lined the walls, while the roof of the pub was adorned with banners containing messages such as “Stop ruining everything”.

At an event in Belfast earlier this year, the collective invited artists, activists and ‘semi-mythological druids’ for performances of traditional music, dance and storytelling. The collective then recreated the installation in an art gallery in Coventry for the annual Turner Prize exhibition, where videos showed scenes from the original event.

In a press release, the organizers of the award said the group’s “hopeful and vibrant” art “tackles pressing social and political issues affecting Northern Ireland with humor, seriousness and beauty”. Tate, the museum group behind the award, said the jury was “impressed” by how the collective “was able to translate their activism and values ​​into the gallery environment, creating a welcoming exhibit. , immersive and surprising “.

Array Collective accepted the 2021 Turner Prize at a ceremony in Coventry, which has been named the UK's 2021 City of Culture.

Array Collective accepted the 2021 Turner Prize at a ceremony in Coventry, which has been named the UK’s 2021 City of Culture. Credit: Matt Alexander / PA Wire

Accepting the award at a televised ceremony Wednesday, collective member Laura O’Connor called the award “surreal”.

She added that the collective were considering devoting the £ 25,000 ($ 33,000) of the prize to “having a permanent place to work”, noting that the group “is going to be kicked out of our space soon enough.”

This year’s shortlist was dominated by collectives, with no individual artist nominated for the first time in the award’s 37-year history. The jury, which was chaired by Tate Britain director Alex Farquharson, noted that the 2021 shortlist reflected “the solidarity and generosity shown in response to our divided times.”

Other nominees, who each received £ 10,000 ($ 13,000), included London-based collectives Cooking Sections and Black Obsidian Sound System, who used their facilities to explore the environmental impact of food production and the discrimination against which face marginalized groups in the UK, respectively. Elsewhere, Project Art Works shed light on the work of neurodivergent artists while the Cardiff-based Gentle / Radical group presented a series of video works, one of which sings 18th-century Welsh prayers.

Related video: How do you fall in love with art?

Named after British painter JMW Turner and founded in 1984, the Turner Prize is awarded annually to an artist based in the United Kingdom. Previous winners included Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, sculptor Anish Kapoor and potter Grayson Perry.

Although usually awarded to a single artist, the prize has already been won by both a group (architectural collective Assemble in 2015) and a duo (Gilbert and George in 1986).

The 2019 award – its most recent, due to last year’s cancellation of the Covid-related program – went to the four nominated artists, after they asked to share the prize money “at one point of political division ”.

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