In an unprecedented move, the 2019 Turner Prize has been awarded to a collective made up of the four shortlisted artists: Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Helen Cammock, Oscar Murillo, and Tai Shani, have all received Britain’s most prestigious art award.
Typically, one artist is selected from among four finalists, but at a time when so much “divides and isolates peoples and communities,” the artists decided to form a collective and share the prize. Cammock spoke on behalf of the newly formed group, dubbed Abu Hamdan / Cammock / Murillo / Shani, at Tuesday evening’s ceremony in Margate. The four finalists—and now winners—are all featured in the 2019 Turner Prize exhibition at Turner Contemporary in Margate, which runs through January 12, 2020.
Each of the artists focuses on social justice and politics in their practices: Beirut-based Abu Hamdan highlights the power of auditory evidence in legal cases in his work, while British artist Cammock explores the role of women in Northern Ireland’s civil rights movement. Murillo, a Colombian artist with a studio in London, focuses on the theme of labor, and London-born Shani uses her practice to create an allegorical city of women.
In a letter submitted to the jury, the artists said:
This year you have selected a group of artists who, perhaps more than ever before in the Prize's history, are all engaged in forms of social or participatory practice. More specifically, each of us makes art about social and political issues and contexts we believe are 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.
In a ceremony Tuesday evening at Turner Contemporary, Cammock, speaking on behalf of the group, discussed the forces that divide society today, including climate change, normalized racism, and the privatization of social services and education.
The Turner Prize was first awarded in 1984, and honors contemporary artists born or based in the U.K. Many past winners and nominees have become household names: Damien Hirst, Wolfgang Tillmans, Rachel Whiteread, and Anish Kapoor have all received the Turner Prize. The award comes with a cash prize of £25,000 ($32,000). Last year’s Turner Prize winner was Glasgow-based artist Charlotte Prodger, who emerged from a cohort of artists with a penchant for moving image and politically poignant work that included Naeem Mohaiemen, Luke Willis Thompson, and Forensic Architecture.
The 2019 edition of the award was judged by Victoria Pomery, director of the Turner Contemporary; fashion critic Charlie Porter; Elvira Dyangani Ose, a lecturer at Goldsmiths and director of The Showroom; and Alessio Antoniolli, director of Gasworks & Triangle Network. Edward Enninful, editor-in-chief of British Vogue, presented the prize.