Helen Marten wins Turner Prize 2016

The 30-year-old artist from Macclesfield says she’ll share the £25,000 award with her fellow nominees. In less surprising news, Michael Gove is a dick

Feature by The Skinny | 06 Dec 2016

London-based artist Helen Marten, who grew up in Macclesfield, has won this year’s Turner Prize for her sculpture, screen printing and writing based work. The 31-year-old artist seems to be on a roll, as she also picked up the £30,000 Hepworth Prize for her sculpture work a few weeks ago. While accepting the awards, Marten said that she’ll share the prize money with her fellow nominees.

The winning work, currently on display at Tate Britain in London, is made from a variety of unusual materials, including cotton buds, marbles, snooker chalk and bicycle chains.

Picking up the prize, Marten spoke of the importance of art in celebrating the diversity of the UK: “From the stripping of arts and creative writing course in school syllabuses, to the ever-prominence of Alt-Right groups gaining a very visible and frightening political platform for xenophobic, homophobic and racists outlook on the world, I think as artists today and as people in this environment we are deeply privileged to be sitting here with a community whose lifeblood is a sort of diversity and exuberance," she said.

"So in light of that, Anthea [Hamilton], Josephine [Pryde] and Michael [Dean], I would like to say I couldn’t think of a more brilliant and exciting shortlist of artists to be part of, so that you for that. And thanks you to Tate for your tolerant support of all of us.”

The prize's jury was chaired by the newly-appointed Tate director Alex Farquharson. He described Marten’s work as "outstanding for its extraordinary range of materials and form" and described the artist as a "kind of poet".

"The work is like reading very rich, very enjoyable, very elusive, quite enigmatic poetry – rather than a very clear report on what happened in a newspaper.

"I think the thing is to enjoy [Marten's work] for its visual qualities, its physical qualities, and get lost in the game of meaning and games of composition that it offers up," said Farquharson.

Michael Gove isn't happy

Marten’s win didn’t please everyone, however. Tory MP Michael Gove created the bizarre hashtag #TurnerPrizehasnothingtodowithJMWTurnersgenius to go along with the news before tweeting “#Turnerprize2016 - congratulations to Helen Martin but #honestly is this = to Turner, Ruskin, even Holman Hunt - of course not #modishcrap.” (Note the incorrect spelling of the artist’s name from the failed Tory leadership contender.)

Perhaps the MP for Surrey Heath is just upset that plans he set in motion while he was Education Secretary to remove “soft” subjects like Art History from the UK curriculum has been overturned thanks to former Turner-prize nominees and winners like Anish Kapoor, Cornelia Parker and Jeremy Deller.

The best response to Gove’s tweet so far has been this reply tweet from Twitter user Richard Mithen.