We are beaming with pride that Belfast-based art collective, Array, have won this year’s Turner Prize – the first Northern Irish artists ever to have received the prestigious award.
The jury awarded the prize to Array Collective for their hopeful and dynamic artwork which addresses urgent social and political issues affecting Northern Ireland with humour, seriousness and beauty. The jury were impressed with how Belfast-based Array Collective were able to translate their activism and values into the gallery environment, creating a welcoming, immersive and surprising exhibition.
‘The Druithaib’s Ball’ (2021) is an immersive installation centred on an imagined síbín (a “pub without permission”) with a floating roof made from banners created for protests and demonstrations.
Alex Farquharson, director of Tate Britain and chairman of the Turner Prize jury, told the PA news agency:
“Of course, it was a hard one, the decision. But what the jurists were drawn to, I think, was both a combination of the seriousness of the issues they’re dealing with, in a very divided world, but the joy, the hope, the fun, the surprise…. with which they do their political work as artworks.
“I think the feeling was that the exhibition had really successfully translated the spirit of what they do, how they go about it, this amazing [shebeen] you know, illegal pub, Northern Irish style in the middle of a gallery with these amazing videos of performances that were quite mesmerising…
“While underneath it all a really serious message, imagining a life, beyond sectarianism, beyond patriarchy, that’s campaigning for reproductive rights, for LGBT+ rights, but again with a spirit of the absurd and a light touch that’s nevertheless profound and engaging, and they felt that was absolutely present in the exhibition space in a very surprising way.”
Their success was announced at a ceremony in Coventry Cathedral, England where they were presented with the £25,000 (almost €30,000) prize money.
The five-strong shortlist this year was made up of entirely of artist collectives for the first time in the history of the award, with no single person chosen.
The four other nominees – Black Obsidian Sound System (B.O.S.S.), Cooking Sections, Gentle/Radical and Project Art Works – were all awarded £10,000.
Listen to The VAN Podcast – Episode 5: Array Collective for an interview with Array members Emma Campbell and Clodagh Lavelle with Joanne Laws (Editor of the Visual Artists News Sheet) wherever you get your podcasts and on our website here.