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So while the projects might be considered too quirky, too unconventional or too far removed from ‘art’, Turner Prize curator Lizzie Carey-Thomas says it’s important for critics to remember the finalists don’t reflect the art world as a whole.

“It’s tempting to look at these four artists as completely indicative of what’s going on in contemporary art at the moment, but it’s not representative as it’s only four artists, who’ve been selected by four jury members, so the shortlist always reflects their tastes and enthusiasms,” she explains.

“The shortlist is always decided on who the jury think has done the best show over the past 12 months, and they’re careful to keep coming back to the criteria of the prize.”

Carey-Thomas shrugs off criticism against Noble’s romping turds, saying his work has been misinterpreted.

“I don’t know where the faeces having sex has come from,” she says. “That’s not true. There’s a motif that appears in his drawings again and again, which is actually of human turds, they have different functions according to the drawing.

“Other times they’re elevated to the status of deities and presented on plinths like sculptures. It’s not a deliberate shock tactic, that’s not how Noble is approaching it.”

Addressing the critics who grumble over whether the final projects constitute art, Carey-Thomas says: “The nature of art has changed. The art that everyone associates with the Turner Prize was art being made in the Nineties for a not very long period of time, people like Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin.

“There was a very happy marriage at that time between the Turner Prize ambitions of wanting to make itself more accessible and the artists’ ambitions of wanting to get as much attention for their work as possible.

“But before that period and subsequently, that’s not been the case. I don’t think artists do set out to deliberately cause controversy anymore, and I think art practice has shifted.”

Whether the Turner Prize finalists have produced art is up to us, the audience, to decide.

However, judging from some of the notes left on the display board at the end of the exhibition – “?” and “I’m taking a pencil” were two that stood out – not everybody is convinced.

Don’t forget the hype: Turner Moments

Every year there’s controversy surrounding the Turner Prize. When it first launched in 1984, championing art in Britain, the winner was painter Malcolm Morley, who had lived in the US for 25 years, causing outrage.

Even before the likes of Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin got people talking with their exhibits of sliced-open animals and slutty beds respectively, the work on display had provoked people to the point of protest, with the Anti Turner Prize set up in 1993 – £40,000 was given to the ‘worst artist in Britain’, voted from the Turner Prize shortlist.

Rachel Whiteread scooped both awards for House, a concrete cast of a house.

Other memorable points include Chris Ofili using elephant dung in his 1998 works; Martin Creed’s 2001 installation featuring an empty gallery with two flashing lights; and 2003’s transvestite pottery artist Grayson Perry, whose works included themes of child abuse.

Turner Prize 2012 exhibition. £10.
Showing until January 6, 2013

Tate Britain, Millbank, SW1P 4RG 
Tube | Pimlico


Photos: Getty


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