Black Artists Lead Turner Prize Shortlist

“Self Evident” (1992) by Ingrid Pollard. Pollard is one of four artists shortlisted for the Turner Prize.Credit…Ingrid Pollard

LONDON — Ingrid Pollard, a pioneering Black female photographer, and Veronica Ryan, a Black sculptor who found widespread recognition in her 60s, are among the nominees for this year’s Turner Prize, the prestigious British visual arts award.

The four-strong shortlist was announced on Tuesday in an online news conference at Tate Liverpool, an art museum in northern England.

Heather Phillipson, who has presented several high-profile public artworks in Britain, was also nominated. In 2020, she installed “The End” in Trafalgar Square, London, a work that included a 31-foot statue of a dollop of whipped cream, with a fly on it.

The fourth artist on the list was Sin Wai Kin, a nonbinary artist born in Toronto.

Pollard, 69, who was born in Guyana before moving to Britain as a child, has been getting attention since the 1980s for her work exploring Black life, including its relationship to rural environments. Christine Eyene, an art historian and one of the judges for this year’s prize, said at the news conference that Pollard’s work, had “for decades uncovered stories and histories hidden in plain site.”

Ryan, 66, makes sculptures of seeds, pods and fruit, as well as assemblages from sewn and crocheted bright fabrics. She told The Guardian newspaper last year that for a long time her art was “not really making enough money to pay the rent” but that her career had recently flourished, including with commissions for major public art. She is featured in this year’s Whitney Biennial in New York.

Phillipson, 43, has had major exhibitions at Tate Britain, in London, and at the Baltic Center for Contemporary Art, in northern England. Sin Wai Kin, 31, is known for films and performances that mix genres including traditional Chinese opera and drag shows.

The Turner Prize, founded in 1984, has been one of the international art world’s major awards, with past winners, such as Damien Hirst and Steve McQueen, going on to become global stars. But the prize has long been contentious in Britain, with newspaper critics often complaining that the nominated artists were too obscure or that their work was more activism than art.

Last year, Array Collective, a group of 11 artists that attends political protests in Northern Ireland while holding homemade props and humorous banners, took the prize. In 2019, the prize was won by all four shortlisted artists, including the Colombian artist Oscar Murillo, after they issued a statement saying that their highly political work was “incompatible with the competition format.”

This year’s winner, to be chosen by a six-member jury, will be announced at a ceremony on Dec. 7. A free exhibition of works by the four nominees will run at Tate Liverpool from Oct. 20 through Mar. 19.

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