LONDON – An 11-person collective from Belfast that aims to transcend Northern Ireland’s political and religious divides won the U.K.’s prestigious Turner Prize for art on Wednesday.
The Array Collective took the 25,000 pound ($33,000) prize for “The Druithaib’s Ball,” a recreation of a traditional Irish shebeen, or speakeasy, that is full of references to 100 years of Northern Ireland history. Prize organizers said the collective’s work tackles “urgent social and political issues affecting Northern Ireland with humor, seriousness and beauty.”
Collective member Laura O’Connor said the group would put the prize money toward finding a permanent base in Belfast, where redevelopment is making space less affordable for artists.
Named for 19th-century landscape painter J.M.W. Turner, the award was founded in 1984 and helped make stars of potter Grayson Perry, shark-pickling artist Damien Hirst and filmmaker Steve McQueen.
But it has also been criticized for rewarding impenetrable conceptual work and often sparks debate about the value of modern art. In 2019, all four finalists were declared winners after they refused to compete against one another. Last year’s prize was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
This year, all five finalists were collectives rather than individual artists.