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The Turner Prize 2010... and beyond (2)

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Will Gompertz | 13:51 UK time, Wednesday, 5 May 2010

I heard some interesting points made by people in the art world yesterday while researching my Ten O'Clock News piece about the Turner Prize short-list and its omission of any any artists in their 20s or 30s.

First, a senior member of London's art-world elite said that "looking at the new crop of young British artists is like watching the class system in action". There was a suggestion here that the prohibitive cost of courses and materials and the slim chances of later success mean that only people from wealthy backgrounds can afford to go to art college.

A related issue came up last week in conversation with the artist Michael Craig-Martin. He taught many of the famous YBAs while lecturing at Goldsmiths College but stopped when changes were made the status of art colleges. He said that previously, they had been more akin to old fashioned polytechnics - free to teach how they saw fit. University status, Craig-Martin said, came with stifling bureaucracy and a reductionist approach to teaching.

The second comment I want to share was this: "Young artists have moved on, but the Turner Prize jurors are looking in the same places."

"Moved on", in this context, means "moved away". I was told that many young British artists find London too expensive and have chosen to live elsewhere, such as India or South America. The implication here is that trawling the galleries of Hoxton and other areas previously ripe with artistic potential may not now be the most fruitful way of finding new talent in an age of globalisation.

Both these comments relate to finance and to the idea that opportunities to succeed as an emerging artist in Britain have receded. If this is the case, perhaps there is an opportunity for some of the publicly-funded arts institutions to help. They could consider looking at the subsidised theatre sector for inspiration.

The Royal Court, the National Theatre, the Donmar Warehouse and other theatres run young writers' programmes. It doesn't matter if you haven't gone on a creative-writing course or even if you have an English GCSE; all you need is an aptitude for writing and a bit of determination. If, for example, an under-25 wannabe playwright sends a script that demonstrates some talent to the Royal Court, they will be invited on the programme. They don't need to give up their job, just most of their social life.

Enron the play

The rewards can be high. The Royal Court will work with the writer to help produce a script that might just make it to the stage. And in the case of recent successes such as Polly Stenhem (That Face), Laura Wade (Posh) or Lucy Prebble (Enron), this has helped to launch a high-profile career.

It's worth considering how this model might work at an institution like, say, the ICA, which lost its sponsor for Becks Futures a while ago. A gallery could run a Royal-Court-type Young Artists' Programme in concert with its curators, willing artists and a range of lecturers, with an annual show presenting the best of the work to the public and art world.

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  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    Why should we continue to make 'shock' art when there is very little left to shock? Young artists aren't as interested in making this art, because it just becomes a pale imitation of something that has already been created. I think we would prefer to create something that is entirely ours, and not something intended to compete or surpass with the work of 'radical' 90s brit artists.

  • Comment number 3.

    This whole emphasis on age is very disappointing, but quite predictable.

    A young art student (at Chelsea) of my acquaintance intends to do just one work in his life - sell a part interest in it for thousands, wait and receive a kick back each time it is sold for increasing sums for the rest of his life and then on his death leave his part to the Nation. (Like some art students - he is 'somewhat' idle!)

    What a sad sad World the World of Art has created! I blame the old men/women and the media. There is no passion. No belief. No alternative (possibly drug induced) World view - just money. It seems to me that the Turner is part of this.

    By the way what is wrong with staging the plays of older, but not established authors? Perhaps you could ask the Royal Court? The key should be like a novice gardening cup - not having had an art prize or a play produced - not age. Soon these ageist selection criteria will be illegal anyway won't they? (If not they should be!)

  • Comment number 4.

    Your post shows concern about:

    - senior members of the art world's attitudes
    - The age range of artists
    - the cost of courses
    - access only from wealthy backgrounds
    - concerns about location of artists
    - barriers of approval
    - encouraging high profile careers
    - presentation of art

    My post in #1 that was removed by the moderators questioned whether there were other places to look, places where the barrier of entry was negligible. By enquiring whether you had found any art on You Tube, this was a serious question (for example some of the animation is superb). It looks as if the moderators too share a very narrow and prejudiced vision of art and wish by their attitudes to maintain its exclusivity.

    I hope this puts my comment in some kind of context.

  • Comment number 5.

    ...when there is very little left to shock?

    Well, I was by the state of the guy's jeans there! I thought he must've debagged a scaffolder on the way to the gallery.

    Isn't it easier to get noticed by shocking than creating a work of sustaining impression? Maybe the Turner is too frequent, maybe it should be every four or five years, give artists a chance to learn to create something worthwhile and lasting.

  • Comment number 6.

    There are lost of opportunities outside of London in galleries throughout the UK to see fantastic artists selected by curators who are aware of the broad spectrum of the international contemporary art scene. At the moment at QUAD in Derby we are hosting Future Focus which is a survey of the best art graduates from last year. The problem seems to be the barrier to these artists being seen/recognised/appreciated outside of London until a London gallery exhibits their work.


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