A French-born, London-based artist is the surprise winner of the 2013 Turner Prize for excellence in contemporary British art.
Laure Prouvost, 35, received the $45,000 honour Monday evening at a ceremony in Derry, Northern Ireland, prevailing over three other finalists, including Tino Seghal and David Shrigley, each of whom had a higher public profile than Prouvost and each touted as a likely winner. Indeed, Prouvost was the only finalist not considered a favourite by oddsmakers after the prize short-list was announced in April.
Prouvost was nominated for her installation piece, Wantee, commissioned earlier this year by Tate Britain as a sort of companion piece to a retrospective there on the famous German Dadaist sculptor/painter/writer Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948). The piece, which includes video and performance elements, was inspired by Schwitters' partner, Edith Thomas, nicknamed "Wantee" after her habit of asking, "Want tea?". From that seedling, Prouvost concocted a fictional story involving her grandfather whom she presented as a friend of Schwitters and a conceptual artist in his own right. Prouvost installed Wantee at the Turner show space in Derry and complemented it with a film about her grandmother and her dreams, again fictional, of dancing in a disco and riding a motorcycle.
Penelope Curtis, Tate Britain director and chair of the four-member Turner jury, lauded Prouvost's work for its "real richness of texture. It was both hand-made and technologically current … intimate but quite outward-facing." The jurors, she added, "talked quite a lot about what was topical and what was current and I think the fact Prouvost's working with technology that is familiar to very young people – this flashing of very short images and sourcing of very short clips and making something new from them but different from popular culture – [is interesting]."
The other finalist was Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, a portrait painter. She along with fellow runners-up Seghal and Shrigley each received $9,000 Monday.
This year marked the first time since the Turner's start in 1984 that the annual event was held outside London. The competition, open to British artists 50 and under who have had a public exhibition in the U.K. in the previous 12 months, has showcased many quirky works in its often fraught history and earned the scorn of the country's tabloid press.
At the same time, its considerable profile – the ceremony is broadcast live on Channel 4, for example – has helped make winners and runners-up such as Damien Hirst, Steve McQueen, Tracey Emin, Gillian Wearing and Chris Ofili household names in the U.K. and the international art scene. The prize ceremony returns to London in 2014.