Martin Boyce last night won the Turner Prize, the U.K.’s top contemporary-art award, beating contenders known for crafting artworks out of plastic sheeting, lipstick and overhead projectors.
Boyce -- whose sculptural installations use furniture, lighting and design -- took his award from photographer Mario Testino in a televised ceremony at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, northern England.
“The Turner Prize has done so much for art,” Boyce told Channel 4, which broadcast the ceremony live. “It’s brought art to an audience, and it’s just an honor to be part of that.”
Moments earlier, the unflamboyant winner -- wearing a black suit and an open-neck white shirt -- stepped up to collect his 25,000 pound ($39,000) prize. At the same time, a burly, bare-chested man in a pink tutu pushed his way forward and sat next to the podium before being quickly whisked away by security.
“At a time when education has been through the wringer,” Boyce said, “I want to acknowledge the value of accessible education and important teachers.”
Set up in 1984, the Turner Prize has drawn tabloid mockery over the years for favoring provocative art. Past winners include Martin Creed, whose submission for the Turner Prize exhibition was the light switch in the gallery room; Damien Hirst, known for his sharks in formaldehyde; and Grayson Perry, a cross-dressing potter.
As British art has moved away from the sensational, the prizewinners have been more cerebral, and their work more intangible. Last year’s winner was Scotland-born Susan Philipsz, who makes sound-based installations where her recorded singing voice rings out in public places.
This year’s five-person jury, led by Penelope Curtis, Tate Britain’s director, preferred Boyce to Karla Black, whose floor-based or hanging sculptures use plastic sheeting and plaster as well as lipstick, nail polish and eye shadow.
The other two nominees were Hilary Lloyd, who makes video installations where projectors become part of the art; and George Shaw, who paints his childhood surroundings -- the housing estate and the local pub in Coventry, central England.
Boyce had work in the Royal Academy of Arts’ “Modern British Sculpture” show earlier this year.
As his entry in the Turner Prize nominees’ exhibition, he drew inspiration from four concrete trees designed for a modernist garden in 1925. He turned them into motifs for his practice, and for a new typeface.
Boyce was shortlisted for the prize on the strength of his solo exhibition at the Galerie Eva Presenhuber in Zurich, which the jury revisited before making up its mind.
The Turner Prize goes to “a British artist under 50 for an outstanding exhibition or other presentation of their work” in the 12 months before April 4, 2011. The prize money is 25,000 pounds for the winner and 5,000 pounds each for the runners-up.
Other past winners include Anish Kapoor, Antony Gormley and Mark Wallinger.
(Farah Nayeri writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are her own.)