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Turner Prize shock – there is no shock

September 30, 2008

turner.jpgBritain’s Turner Prize prides itself on whipping up the art world’s equivalent of a storm each year with exhibits that are often designed to shock and upset. The only shock this time around, it seems, is that there is no shock.

Sure, Cathy Wilkes has a mannequin sitting cross-legged on a toilet as part of her installation, but critics are saying that that’s about as close as the four shortlisted artists come to anything like controversy. Let’s not forget,┬áthe annual award has been won recently┬áby a man in a bear suit, a shed-cum-boat-cum-shed and an empty room in which the lights go on and off.

“Turn up, tune in and drop off,” writes Times art critic Rachel Campbell-Johnston. She likens the experience of seeing the Turner Prize exhibition at London’s Tate Britain gallery to the returns desk at Ikea on a Monday morning: “Lots of frustrated people will be left staring at a pile of inscrutable junk.”

Richard Dorment in the Telegraph is also underwhelmed. “Who cares who wins?” his piece is titled, and opens with a description of all four artists’ work as “technically competent, bland and ultimately empty art made specifically for international biennales.”

But at least someone liked the show. Adrian Searle in the Guardian wrote: “There’s a depth and complexity here that, it would be nice to think, might overtake the usual chat about winners and losers.”

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