TURNER PRIZE 2017, FERENS ART GALLERY, HULL – REVIEW

On a cold blustery November afternoon I entered the Ferens Art Gallery with a sense of anticipation. For the first time in my life, I was to encounter one of the most debate provoking and questionable modern art exhibitions this country has produced.

 This year sees the arrival of the Turner Prize turn up on the doorstep of the Yorkshire coast, in the city of culture, Hull. Instead of divulging into what legacy such a title will leave for my hometown, I will however say that a small buzz and sense of excitement has begun to seep back into the lifeless streets of this forgotten city. The once derelict buildings of the fruit market district, just off the marina, has seen a mini indie-renaissance that could easily provide the likes of Shoreditch in the capital a run for its edginess and hipster kudos, if the people of the city embrace the new found love of art and culture and take it on for years to come.

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Back to the prize itself.
 
Having such an event in Hull could only bring prestige and a pinnacle to the years events going on around the city. Walking around the halls of the grade 2 listed building I left feeling somewhat content. The whole experience was pleasant and staff were helpful. General cheery chitter chatter filled the air from expected arty types whilst wonderful art of the modern world hung from the high walls and filled the spaces with expected curated precision.
 
After an hour or so I head back into the bitter north easterly breeze feeling slight unjust. I didn’t leave feeling violated, upset, angry or in a state of debate with my fellow sibling, everything I was expecting to and built up to believe to feel. The question that I was expected to ask, was that really art we just witnessed, had no place, because I actually liked it. 
 
As a designer in the commercial world there has always been a small slice of me that envies the artists of the art world. Freedom to show expression, breaking the norm, being free from the shackles of client directives and truly being able to express their inner emotions and views to the wider world. Love it or loathe modern art, it certainly ticks all these boxes.
 
This very notion of love and hate forms the basis of all modern art and the Turner Prize. Roll back to 1984 – Band Aid were at number 1 with the hit single Do they know its Christmas? And Ghostbusters was the biggest grossing film.
The Tate Director at the time, Alan Bowness, was enthusiastic about the idea of an award that ‘would help draw greater public discussion to new art, in much the same way as the Booker Prize has helped the novel’.
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Named after the early nineteenth-century painter J.M.W. Turner in response to his unfulfilled wish to set up an award for younger artists, and his this years rule change of allowing entrants over the age of 50 evolve the prize to grow up and become a little more conservative?

From the first winner Malcolm Morley it rolled on year after year setting a pedestal for future greats of modern art like, Gilbert & George, Anish Kapoor, Damien Hirst, Anthony Gormley and even non winners like Tracey Emin. All successful in raising the profile of modern art to the masses and even non arty people, where talk over the dinner table became what is art these days, and surely I could do better than that.

So back to the cobbled maritime streets of Old Town Hull, the exhibition got my brother and I debating has the prize become mainstream? Are the current crop pushing the envelope enough? Many more questions arose, but in all has the very debate that has sparked from this years turner prize to question what is it now from its past, a new approach from the organisers and jury to question a new turning point for the future of the prize and modern art?

Either way I would love Hurvin Anderson on my living room wall, knowing full well the stalwarts of the modern art world would scorn at the idea I have such desire.

The exhibition is at Hull’s Ferens Gallery as part of the UK City of Culture celebrations. The winner will be named on 5 December and will receive £25,000.

BY NATHAN BALL

CREATIVE