GATESHEAD, England (Reuters) - Bookmakers’ favorite Martin Boyce won the Turner Prize on Monday, claiming a 25,000 pound ($40,000) check and one of the art world’s most prestigious and controversial awards.
The 44-year-old’s distinctive sculptural installations, which seek to create an urban landscape within the confines of the gallery space, topped a shortlist of works that some critics said was one of the best in the Turner’s 27-year history.
“Some really good artists have won the Turner Prize and some really good artists have not won the Turner Prize,” Boyce said at a press conference afterwards. “The impact of this hasn’t even hit yet and I don’t know when or if it’s going to hit.”
Brown paper “leaves” are strewn across the floor of his exhibition at the BALTIC gallery in Gateshead, northern England, which hosted the awards — only the second time they have been held outside London.
“I guess it has something to do with hope and finding the poetic in the abject,” Boyce said of his work.
A trashcan-like structure fitted with a fabric liner and small, rectangular grills attached to the wall at ankle-height produces the atmosphere of a city park.
“Boyce ... has steadily shown himself to be strong through his work seen internationally and in a number of big shows,” Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate galleries which run the annual award, told Reuters.
It is the second year running that a Scottish artist has won the Turner Prize after Susan Philipsz claimed the 2010 award for her sound installation.
The winning choice this year was more restrained than it has been in the past, with the Turner Prize famous for sparking fierce debate about what constitutes art.
Damien Hirst was presented with the prize in 1995 for a pickled cow, and in 2001 an empty room with a light that switched on and off clinched the prize for Martin Creed.
But the lack of controversy this year did not dampen public interest in the exhibition of works by the four shortlisted artists and a nearly naked man in a pink tutu leapt on stage during the proceedings providing a brief moment of hilarity.
More than 100,000 people have visited the show at the BALTIC since it opened in October — already double the number that saw the exhibition at the Tate in London last year.
Celebrity photographer Mario Testino, who presented the award, said the Turner Prize had made more people aware of contemporary art.
“There is a lot more consciousness today in the art world ... people are more aware, and art is more accessible,” he said. “We are more used to everything, and it’s from not knowing that you get those sort of (negative) reactions.
“(The Turner Prize) has been a key player in making people look at art,” he said.
Second favorite and the only painter on the shortlist, George Shaw, depicts the melancholic and gritty urban wasteland of Coventry — his childhood home.
With his unusual choice of humbrol enamel, normally used in model making, Shaw gives the paintings a glossy sheen which contrasts with their drab subject matter.
Video artist Hilary Lloyd has constructed a room of flickering images where the projectors are just as much a part of the artwork as the videos themselves.
And Karla Black’s pastel powder creations bring the sense of smell to her vast constructions of paper and plastic through the use of balsa wood, moisturizer and nail varnish.
The three runners-up each receive 5,000 pounds.
Boyce said the prize was a confirmation of his youthful dream to become an artist, a career decision fraught with uncertainty for the future.
“I never thought I would be able to support my family through art, but I am able to live a creative life and it’s a privilege,” he said.
The Turner Prize, created in 1984, is awarded annually to a British artist under the age of 50 whose work over the past year has been judged as particularly innovative and important.
Editing by Paul Casciato