As the world’s most famous contemporary art prize travels to Gateshead, Channel 4 News Culture Editor Matthew Cain hopes the change of scene will “shake the prize free from history and tradition”.
In 1934 JB Priestley said Gateshead must have been designed “by the enemy of the human race”. Much has changed in the 77 years since.
In 2011 the town, which bids for city status next year, is set to complete its journey from sooty industrial heartland to gleaming cultural mecca as it hosts the Turner Prize, one of the biggest nights in the art world calendar.
Now in its 27th year, the 2011 award will be presented outside London.
More from Channel 4 News: Turner Prize 2011 - photo gallery
Channel 4 News Culture Editor Matthew Cain said the move north is a chance for the prize to spread its wings – much like Britain’s most famous modern sculpture, Antony Gormley’s Angel of the North, which looms large nearby over the A1.
“When it was first announced that the Turner Prize would be travelling to Baltic, there was a lot of discussion about what the Turner Prize could do for Gateshead,” he said.
“That’s possibly because the north east is a region which in recent years has benefited hugely from economic regeneration brought about through investment in the arts (notably the opening of Baltic and the Sage Centre around the same time as the Millennium Bridge was completed – a combination of events which totally transformed this stretch of the River Tyne).
It can do no harm to shake the prize free from this sense of history and tradition for a year. Matthew Cain
“But I think it’s much more interesting to flip the question on its head and ask what Gateshead can do for the Turner Prize.
“London’s Tate Britain is a brilliantly forward-thinking institution but the building in which it’s housed and the permanent collection it contains are weighed down with tradition and unavoidable associations with the illustrious history of British art – all of which can be quite daunting to artists and sometimes overwhelm our appreciation of their work.
“The Turner Prize on the other hand was set up to celebrate the latest developments in contemporary art. It can therefore do no harm to shake the prize free from this sense of history and tradition for a year. And hopefully in the process reinvigorate it for the future.”
Artist and blogger James Barry told Channel 4 News he would like to see the prize move around the UK from now on.
“I think the organisers want to reach the large audience for visual arts, that exists outside London,” he said.
“This is reflected in the number of major new contemporary art galleries that have opened in Britain this year alone. I hope we will see a rotation of regional contemporary art galleries and Tate Britain as venues for the Turner Prize.”
You can click on each finalist above to learn more about their work – including video profiles by Tate Media.
This year’s award sees two large-scale installations go up against video art and painting.
Karla Black‘s installations have been described as “a world of paper caves, pastel paints and powdery splashes” by Chris Sharratt in the Creative Times. Black combines traditional art-making materials with medicines, packaging, clothing, carpets, foodstuffs, toiletries and make-up.
Fellow Scot Martin Boyce creates atmospheric, sculptural art inspired by modernist design. For this show, Boyce developed repeat patterns to create a “graphic forest” through which, he says, a “language emerged”.
Hilary Lloyd works with video and projected images but insists she is no filmmaker. She makes use of the hardware itself (projectors, cables, DVD players) which have a physical impact on viewers, saying: “You can use [equipment] to directly obstruct someone’s route.”
She also joked: “I don’t think I know what the work’s saying – can you answer so I can I say if I agree?”
George Shaw, currently the bookmakers’ favourite, is a painter whose subject matter is the place in which he grew up – the Tile Hill council estate in Coventry. He says his work confronts a “nostalgic reverie” of his childhood. Art blogger James Barry said: “[Shaw’s] works are of suburban scenes from his childhood and about time passing. The content matters, but also the style. And these are beautiful paintings.”
The Turner Prize 2011 winner will be announced in a special Channel 4 programme live from the Baltic from 8pm on 5 December.
Channel 4 News will be live blogging from the ceremony - you can follow @channel4news, @MatthewCainC4 and @annadoble for news, photos and behind the scenes updates on the night. And you can tell us which artist is your favourite - use the hashtags #c4news and #tp2011.