Helen Marten wins Turner Prize, MP Michael Gove calls her work ‘#modishcrap’

The Advent of a World Class Economy, 2009–10 (installation view, Lisson Gallery, London). Courtesy T293, Naples

The Turner Prize 2016 has been awarded to Helen Marten. The £25,000 prize was presented by author Ben Okri at a ceremony held at Tate Britain last night. Marten, 31, beat contenders Michael Dean, Anthea Hamilton and Josephine Pryde. A further £5,000 is awarded to each of the other shortlisted artists.

Marten, who was selected as one of ArtReview's Future Greats back in 2011, was also the winner of the inaugural Hepworth Prize for sculpture in November. Marten had declared that she would split the £30,000 Hepworth prize with the other shortlisted artists, and has said she would share her Turner win with her fellow nominees.

In an emotional acceptance speech, Marten made a plea for a 'pluralist and liberal outlook' at a time when that outlook was 'becoming ever more precarious'. Marten made reference to the stripping of arts and creative writing programmes in school syllabuses and the rise of 'alt-right groups gaining a very visible and frightening political platform for a xenophobic, homophobic and racist outlook on the world'. Marten went on to praise the artistic community represented by those present 'whose lifeblood is diversity and exuberance'. 

The award to a British or British-based artist under 50 was attacked by the prominent Conservative MP and pro-Brexit campaigner Michael Gove. Shortly after the announcement was made the former Education Secretary tweeted:

#Turnerprize2016 - congratulations to Helen Martin but #honestly is this = to Turner, Ruskin, even Holman Hunt - of course not #modishcrap

However Alex Farquharson, director of Tate Britain and chair of the jury told the BBC, ‘She's like a kind of poet when it comes to using materials, images and found objects.’ 

The prize jury consisted of Beatrix Ruf, director of the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Simon Wallis, director of the Hepworth Wakefield; independent curator Tamsin Dillon; Michelle Cotton, the director of Germany’s Bonner Kunstverein.

6 December 2016