LONDON (Reuters) - A messy supermarket checkout flanked by a mannequin doll on a toilet will vie with a video of a teacup and saucer smashing on the floor for Britain’s Turner Prize, one of the contemporary art world’s top awards.
The annual event traditionally sparks debate about what art is, and 2008 is likely to be no exception with one critic calling works by the four nominees “a very inscrutable bunch.”
Grabbing most attention at the press preview on Monday of a Tate Britain exhibition featuring the four shortlisted artists was Belfast-born Cathy Wilkes’ “I Give You All My Money.”
The installation features two supermarket checkouts covered in dirty dishes and surrounded by a ladder, tiles, a mannequin sitting on a toilet and another with its head in a bird cage.
“It’s incredibly carefully composed and precisely placed and formed from ready-made objects we find in the everyday world ... as well as incredibly personal objects — bowls that she’s fed her family and her children from,” said curator Carolyn Kerr.
“They are drawn together to form a story, but not a story that’s specific or defined,” she added.
Art critic Rachel Campbell-Johnston said Wilkes’ work, though defying easy interpretation, may be the most approachable of all the four shortlisted artists.
“If you are going to come along and say ‘What does it mean?’, you’re not going to get ... an answer in this piece. It’s a long surrealist journey,” she told the BBC.
“I think this is the only one which people outside the art world will understand. It is the least inscrutable of a very inscrutable bunch.”
Runa Islam, born in Bangladesh, presents several film works, including “Be The First To See What You See As You See It” in which a woman inspects china objects before slowly pushing a cup and saucer off a table, smashing them on the floor.
In “CINEMATOGRAPHY,” a mechanized camera shoots a workshop interior while tracing the letters of the title.
Briton Mark Leckey explores contemporary visual culture with a film of Jeff Koons’ polished steel “Rabbit” and his art lecture “Cinema-in-the-Round” which is shown in a small movie theater in the gallery.
Rounding off the four nominees is Goshka Macuga, whose sculptural ensemble of glass and metal was inspired by the relationships between two pairs of artists — Paul Nash and Eileen Agar and Lilly Reich and Mies van der Rohe.
Outside the Tate Britain gallery, members of the “Stuckist” movement which scorns what it calls the “pretensions of conceptual art” and champions figurative painting, took aim at the Turner even before it had seen the exhibition.
“The Turner Prize is Crap” read one banner.
Curator Kerr said she expected heated debate to surround this year’s entries.
“The Turner Prize does provoke debate, and that is one of the intentions of the prize,” she said. “There is also work in the show that’s incredibly beautiful, witty, subversive and lyrical, and contemporary art is all of those things.”
The Turner Prize exhibition runs from September 30 to January 18, 2009. The winner is announced on December 1 and is awarded a 25,000-pound ($45,000) check.
Editing by Paul Casciato