At a ceremony in England town, Margate, Turner prize history was made when Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Helen Cammock, Oscar Murillo, and Tai Shani were named the collective winner after they jointly wrote to judges, theguardian.com reported.
Each of the artists, who had never met each other before being shortlisted, will get a quarter share of the £40,000 prize pot.
At the event, Cammock read out a joint statement on stage. In it the artists referred to the significance of the Turner prize – which is for a British artist working in Britain – seeking to “expand what it means to be British,” and said their work sought to take a stand against isolation and exclusion in a hostile environment with a “symbolic gesture of cohesion.”
This year’s Turner prize has been one of the most political in its history with work exploring themes of migration, patriarchy, torture, and civil rights. The artists asked judges not to pit those subjects against each other.
Their statement echoed the letter they wrote to the judges beforehand, in which they said that each made art about social and political issues of great importance and urgency. “The politics we deal with differ greatly, and for us it would feel problematic if they were pitted against each other, with the implication that one was more important, significant or more worthy of attention than the others.
Alex Farquharson, director of Tate Britain, said the artists had given judges a lot to think about and they were “overwhelmingly excited” by the request. He also conceded it had been the most straightforward prize jury meeting he had ever chaired.
Both the nature of the work and the timing made it the correct decision, he said. “To state the obvious these are very polarized times, in this country and across the world.”
The prize has never been won collectively in its 35-year history and may never again, said Farquharson. “This is the result of a confluence of different issues.”
He said the Turner prize had a history of surprises and that had kept it relevant.
Abu Hamdan said this year was a “specific” event because all the artists were on a similar social and political track. “This time it seemed to be that there was a cohesion around a political approach more than an aesthetic practice,” he said.
The jury praised the artists for their commitment to the collective power of art.
The Turner prize, one of the world’s best known visual arts awards, annually seems to divide audiences as much as it brings them together. It often delights and aggravates in equal measure and the strongly political nature of this year’s work has done the same again.
About 95,000 people have so far visited this year’s exhibition in Margate, making it one of the most popular Turner prize shows held outside London.
Tate Britain director Alex Farquharson, who chaired the judges, said: “In coming together and presenting themselves as a group, this year’s nominated artists certainly gave the jury a lot to think about.
The Turner prize show continues in Margate, free of charge, until January 12.