The Turner Prize maintained its controversial place on the awards’ calendar yesterday, as the top prize for 2015 went to a London-based design and architecture collective called ‘Assemble’. Their involvement in a major regeneration scheme of derelict housing in Toxteth in Liverpool scooped the group £25,000. The awards ceremony was held at Glasgow’s Tramway this year, in recognition of the city’s involvement in the development of many of the recent winners.

Regeneration scheme for the local community

Assemble’s project involved overhauling ten houses in the Toxteth area, with 14-18 people comprising their group.

All of the collective are aged in their 20s and the majority of them studied architecture together. The surprised winners were joined by several Liverpool residents on stage as they received their award from Kim Gordon, a member of the New York rock band Sonic Youth.

Whether it was a shock nomination or not for them to receive, they join a list of illustrious contemporaries as the likes Damien Hirst and Steve McQueen have been heralded as former Turner Prize winners.

Art or not?

Yet again art critics and broadcasters watching on were left shaking their heads afterwards and doubting whether the winning entry actually represented ‘modern art’. Channel 4 aired live coverage of the ceremony, with the respected author and broadcaster Muriel Gray watching the events unfold.

She suggested that it represented “socially responsible, beautiful architecture,” before adding that it was “a very peculiar year” (in terms of the shortlist nominees) and that the recognition afforded by the Turner Prize looked to be moving in a different direction to the past. Certainly it seems that the organisers are stretching the boundaries to include non-artists among the nominees, unlike the categorisation of the previous winners.

Four-strong shortlist

In addition to ‘Assemble’, three other nominees made the shortlist this year, demonstrating the eclectic nature of the competing projects:

  • Janice Kerbel wrote an operatic piece called ‘DOUG’ which is in essence performance art, including nine songs for sixvoices.
  • Bonnie Camplin explored the world of the supernatural, by setting up a study centre called the ‘Military Industrial Complex’ based at the South London Gallery. Her work included sharing interviews with people who have claimed to have been exposed to paranormal experiences in the past.
  • Nicole Wermers earned her nomination for an installation entitled ‘Infrastruktur’. Born in Germany but now living in London, Wermers’ exhibition incorporates setting out ten chairs with their backs having fur coats sewn into them.

All three of the disappointed nominees at least had the consolation of receiving a runners-up award of £5,000 each, in addition to a ready-made showcase and publicity for their work.

Inaugural event in the 80s

From its beginnings in 1984, the Turner Prize (named in honour of the English painter J. M. W. Turner) has sought to recognise the work of visual artists from Britain under the age of 50. Organised by the Tate gallery it has sought to expand its reach outside of London in recent times, hence the reasoning behind the ceremony being held at a venue outside of the capital.

No one can deny that the Turner Prize continues to keep people talking about contemporary art and hence has surely achieved one of its major aims once again. Whether the winners’ entry represents ‘art’ or not is up for debate it seems, with the definition evolving and no doubt continuing to do so into the future.