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Turner Prize: Susan Philipsz won and...

Will Gompertz | 08:53 UK time, Tuesday, 7 December 2010

I had a clear plan for this post last night when I set out to report on this year's Turner Prize. I would get to Tate Britain at 6ish, have a quick romp around the exhibition as a refresher and then observe the goings-on immediately pre- and post- the announcement of the winner for Gomp/arts.

This was the interzone between filing for the News at Ten and the yet-to-be announcement of the winner. A perfect time, I had thought, to use the Turner Prize as a bellwether for the state of the subsidised arts: to see how the prestigious event was coping with the chill wind of austerity after the recent cuts.

Would they still be serving rivers of cold white wine and mountains of nibbles to fields of well-heeled bankers keen to get in on the art scene, as had been the case when I was working there last year? Or was the party over before it had even begun, washed up on a tide of receding would-be philanthropists and contra-deal beer?

The truth is, I have no idea: I got no nearer to the party than the 50 or so art students who were protesting in the foyer about cuts to the further-education budget.

As soon as I tipped up I was informed whom the jury had selected as the winner then quickly ushered to a (very cold) back room to start writing a script for the evening's news. I complied as the roars of approval (to what, I do not know) washed over my detached team like the distant sonic boom of a passing aeroplane.

At 1945 our producer (Bernadette), correspondent (me) and cameraman/editor (Anthony) were ushered into the part of the exhibition containing Susan Philipsz' sound installation and told to prepare for her imminent arrival to do a winner's interview.

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Right on cue she entered followed by men bearing cameras. The snapping started. After five minutes or so I got to interview her and elicit the soundbite or two I needed to drop into the news package before sending it off for broadcast. By the time we left at 2220, the party was over (the after-party was just beginning but an appearance on the Today programme in the morning put the kibosh on that) and, as you now appreciate, I had very little to report that you now don't already know (Susan Philipsz was only the fourth woman to win the Turner Prize and the first person of either gender to succeed with a sound installation. She was born in Glasgow in 1965, is based in Berlin and as from last night is £25,000 better off with no clear idea of how to spend it other than giving her parents a well-earned holiday.)

Little to report other than that, in my view, she was the stand-out artist on this year's shortlist, was clearly totally overwhelmed by her success and was a wonderfully self-effacing, charming, honest interviewee.

And that it is the second year in a row that an artist who makes beautiful, ephemeral work has won the prize. A sign of our times, perhaps?



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