2020 Turner Prize canceled, award money will go to struggling artists instead

Don't Turner Away

2020 Turner Prize canceled, award money will go to struggling artists instead

The Turner Prize would normally be presented at the Tate Modern, a converted power station that originally opened in 2000. The adjacent Herzog & de Meuron-designed Switch House addition, clad in interlocking brick, opened in 2016. (Jim Stephenson)

The Tate Britain, the London museum responsible for administering the Turner Prize, has called off the 2020 edition over the difficulty of mounting an in-person exhibition for the winners during the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of honoring British artists (and occasionally architecture collectives) for a 36th year, the Tate will dispense 10 grants of approximately $12,000 (£10,000) to artists in need.

Last year’s Turner Prize was also tradition-breaking but in a much more wholesome way. After finalists Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Helen Cammock, Oscar Murillo, and Tai Shani submitted a joint statement asking that the jury not select a single winner—their work, the group wrote, all addresses harsh truths of migration, civil rights, immigration, and justice—the judges agreed to split the $52,000 prize four-ways. The decision sparked discussions on how relevant the prize still is—as well as singular art prizes in general.

Now, although judging was reportedly far along, this year will be the first without a winner since 1990, when the prize’s sponsor went bankrupt.

“Gallery closures and social distancing measures are vitally important, but they are also causing huge disruption to the lives and livelihoods of artists,” Tate Britain director Alex Farquharson told the BBC.

“The practicalities of organising a Turner Prize exhibition are impossible in the current circumstances, so we have decided to help support even more artists during this exceptionally difficult time.”

The same judges that were working toward selecting finalists for the Turner Prize will now create a list of 10 eligible British artists as well as artists working in Britain. This year, that jury includes:

  • Richard Birkett, curator at large at the Institute of Contemporary Arts
  • Sarah Munro, director of the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, England
  • Fatos Üstek, director of the Liverpool Biennial of Contemporary Art
  • Duro Olowu, curator

The Tate has secured extra sponsorship that has raised the value of the grants to approximately $122,000. The names of the recipient artists will be revealed in June.