Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Worth 1,000 words (but not £20,000)?

Today marks the opening of the Turner Prize exhibition at Tate Britain. Last week marked the 80th birthday celebrations of Beryl Cook, one of the grandest (and mischievous) dames of British painting. And linking them together is Liverpool. Okay, maybe not. But next year the Turner is moving North to showcase the Capital of Culture. And we don't need the fashion sense of a WAG to know that the women in Cook's painting Girls in Taxi are more Scouse than Sloane.

But sadly, that is where any connection between Beryl Cook, the Tate, and the Turner ends. Just last week the Tate (again) stonewalled pleas from Beryl Cook's supporters to honour her 80th birthday by finally agreeing to purchase a single one of her pictures. Even the more obscene when considering that one of Cook's paintings fetches between £20-£40,000: the same price the Tate paid for a can of faeces four years ago.

It must be Cook's popularity that makes her taboo to the established art world. But should there not be a section of the visual arts canon set aside for that which pleases the public if nothing else? If not, don't we risk just being left with whatever fits into Tracey's sad and self conscious tent?

The Turner Prize opens today at Tate Britain and runs until January 14. The winner will be announced on December 4.


Anonymous Henry said...

Sure - but isn't art all about everything that is not popular? The Mozarts over the Spice Girls?

Where do you stop if you have to take on all of the things so called nominated by the public?

I am not sure this is possible. Popular or not.

12:40 pm  
Anonymous Dave, a script writer said...

The Turner Prize artists have to be under 50 and born in or living and working in Britain. The age cut-off is sensible enough, but how long do artists have to live here to qualify? Could they commute? And - this is the bit the public never understands - the artists have to be nominated for a particular show, not a body of work.

12:58 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The members of the Turner Prize 2006 jury are:
Lynn Barber, writer, The Observer
Margot Heller, Director, South London Gallery
Matthew Higgs, Director and Chief Curator, White Columns, New York
Andrew Renton, writer and Director of Curating, Goldsmiths College
Nicholas Serota, Director, Tate and Chairman of the Jury

Sound middle class and pretentious enough?

12:59 pm  
Blogger Moaner Lisa said...

But Slicker - where would all the arty farty types go to escape the commoners if you started filling galleries with art that touched us all?

The most successful artist ever (judged by number of prints sold) died this year without much of the art world even noticing.

1:08 pm  
Anonymous dawnbysea said...

Maybe the snobbery comes from Cook's background as a former B&B landlady in Portsmouth.

She is self taught (gasp)

Paints working class people (gasp)

Who go to the English not Spanish seaside (gasp)

Who are also overweight (gasp)

1:15 pm  
Anonymous Sandra said...

Despite the bitching that comes out of the Turner Prize each year, it certainly means good things for those selected. Just think previous winners include Anish Kapoor, Damien Hirst, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Tracey Emin...

So love it or hate it what it does is give the winning artists a big step towards making it

Could that be why we are all so jealous?

1:19 pm  
Anonymous max said...

So Beryl Cook is too old for the Turner Prize. Never mind, eh? But it is a bit odd that the Tate hasn't purchased one of her works yet (it's not just about Nick Serota's taste, therefore).

By most measures, Beryl Cook is a significant British artist (even if she's not a particularly brilliant one, in my view). However, I can see that her work's got a folky, pop-culture charm to it not that far from someone like Chris Ofili (who the Tate is happy to buy up). And she's hardly the artworld equivalent of the Spice Girls (that would be Athena posters).

At the least, the Tate needs to explain its thinking a bit better. Why not buy one Cook to add to the collection? Or is that too painful?

1:27 pm  
Blogger ems said...

I don't think Cook is an amazing artist but there is a certain charm to her work. I reckon they should buy a couple.

1:49 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Or mayeb it is just because she is happy and not angry that real artistes dont appreciate her works.

A bit too much fun to be serious enough or depressing enough for the like of the Tate patrons

That is breaking a key rule of modernism -- paint sadness

3:06 pm  
Blogger City Slicker said...

Good point Max.

Cook's fans should have waited to voice their complaint until this week.

They could have muscled some good press alongside the new anti age-ismEmployment Equality Act.

But then we would have to argue that 'real' artists are actually employees of curators? Which we wouldn't want to do...

And Moaner I agree we need to keep the arty farty types escaping to one place, but isn't that what ICA membership is all about?

3:18 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mayeb this can help us shed some light:

Beryl - repressed alcoholic.

Tracey - lesbian.

Liz - good looking, definately one to shag.

3:58 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i know i cant spell mayeb


3:59 pm  
Blogger Tanya said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog and for the comments. Sorry I was arsey about the one comment you left. Open wound. I do apologise. But thank you for swinging round my blog an I will be swinging around yours a bit more too.

4:12 pm  
Anonymous Kim said...

It is a tough question what you do about works of art that dare to be both affecting and pretty decent quality.

I dont know if popularity is enough to warrant inclusion at somewhere like the Tate.

Good stir though CS!

4:33 pm  
Anonymous bighouselittleman said...

Rebecca Warren has filled five display cases with items she found on her studio floor and on the road outside. The rubbish includes bits of fluff, dust, hair, plastic, twigs, woollen pom-poms and a discarded cherry stone.

According to the Mirror, Warren, from Hackney (there is the pretense!), East London, said: “I’m actually interested in what a bit of fluff and a bit of twig put in a particular order can mean. For somebody, it could mean one thing, and for somebody else, it could mean something else.”

Tate Curator Lizzie Carey-Thomas said: “Despite the fact it is rubbish, there is a mini-drama going on. The objects are active within the box itself. They have emotional and associative resonance, and can communicate meaning.”

The Turner Award, as administered by the Tate, has to be one of the biggest jokes in the art world.

5:23 pm  
Anonymous Jamie said...

Interesting point, Slicker. The same could be said of Jack Vettriano. It comes down, in the end, to cultural sniffiness. I think the addition of at least one of Beryl Cook's paintings to the Tate would at least give a nod to 'general public' taste and might even raise a smile among the foreign tourists who browse. The mark of a mature cultural society is the ability to celebrate populist art and not be embarrassed by it.

7:13 pm  
Blogger Rachel Waites said...

Beryl Cook is the Rita, Sue and Bob Too of the art world. I love her.

10:53 am  
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