Turner Prize 2016 Betting: Bum notes and the poverty line
The Turner Prize for 2016 is announced on Monday and, with that in mind, Max Liu went down to Tate Britain to see the work and select his bet...
"Hands feature again in Michael Dean's [2.7] entry - casts of his family's fists, in fact, which are startling when you come across them on the floor."
Over the years, I've enjoyed memorable afternoons at the annual Turner Prize exhibition at Tate Britain. In 1999, I travelled from Cornwall to see Tracey Emis's bed (it was great, although she didn't win).
In 2008, I was mesmerised by Mark Leckey's films (he won). Of recent years, 2012 was particularly strong, with Luke Flower's haunting film about the psychiatrist RD Laing edged out by the video artist Elizabeth Price.
But when I arrived at TB to see this year's entries and decide where to put my money in the betting, I felt underwhelmed. For one thing, this year's show has moved to a smaller space upstairs. There weren't many visitors and, while that's perhaps inevitable on a Wednesday afternoon, the atmosphere was like that of a favourite restaurant that's gone downhill under new management. Perhaps bettors agree because, with only three days until the winner is announced on Monday night, there's scant liquidity in the market.
If you do fancy a bet, here's my take.
The first entry you come to is by Helen Marten [2.7] who recently won the Hepworth Prize for Sculpture. Marten presents familiar objects in unfamiliar arrangements, combining bowls, ceramic gaskets and much more to make strange contraptions. She asks us, according to the exhibition guide, "to become archaeologists of our own time." Cotton buds, coins and shoe soles are among the stuff strewn beneath beguiling silk screens and baffling workstation-like structures. Images of the human body and home recur. The work invites decoding but I found it impenetrable.
Anthea Hamilton [3.5] provides 2016's Turner tabloid talking point ("Call that art?!"): a giant pair of buttocks, hands clasping. I approached said butt but, finding my head at perianal level, retreated, taking in Hamilton's red-brick wallpaper. In her second space, I felt more serene, amid a floor to ceiling mural of the London sky at 3pm on a sunny day in June. But that ended when I noticed the chastity belts hanging from the ceiling.
The second half of the exhibition is more accessible. Josephine Pryde's [2.7] photograms on kitchen worktops, which are propped against the wall, made me think about the passage of time, as they were all made this summer and could last forever. The effect is moving and the same is true of the photographs of women's hands hanging on the opposite wall. The hands are engaged in everyday activities, the younger ones tapping screens while the older hands bear the marks of time. The model train in the middle of the room is going nowhere - languishing in the sidings on a track that's clogged with wood chips.
Hands feature again in Michael Dean's [2.7] entry - casts of his family's fists, in fact, which are startling when you come across them on the floor. They lie amid a congested mini-landscape which initially feels inhospitable, as you have to be careful not to bump into anything and its surfaces are abrasive. The longer I spent here, though, the more I was drawn to Dean's sculptures which are inspired by his writing and constructed in a variety of materials.
In the middle of all this, meanwhile, is £20,436 in pennies - the minimum amount the government estimates a family of four needs to survive for one year in Britain. Dean has removed one penny, however, thus plunging the work beneath the poverty line. It made me think about the precarity of modern life, especially as atop the coins stand four sheets of corrugated iron, a stark and twisted family portrait.
Of the four nominees, Dean was the one who made me feel immersed in his world. He achieved the most with the space available to him and, for that reason, he's the artist I'd pick to win and the one I'd back in the betting.