05 December 2023

Jesse Darling wins Turner Prize after turning roller coaster into mammoth

05 December 2023

Jesse Darling has won the 2023 Turner Prize, it has been announced.

The Oxford-born artist, 41, who lives in Berlin, received the prestigious art award at Winter Garden in Eastbourne, East Sussex.

Previous winners include pottery maker and contemporary artist Sir Grayson Perry, film director and visual artist Sir Steve McQueen and artist Damien Hirst.

This year’s award, which is worth £25,000 and was held adjacent to the gallery Towner Eastbourne – the hosts of this year’s prize, was presented by British rapper Tinie Tempah.

Darling is known for his work with unconventional materials such as welded barriers, hazard tape, office files and net curtains.

He has also turned a full-sized roller coaster into the skeletal form of a woolly mammoth.

At the end of his acceptance speech, Darling pulled the Palestinian flag out of his coat pocket and waved it amid the conflict in Gaza and Israel.

He said art “is something that a lot of the public can get behind” and explained that it helps develop other skills.

Darling claimed that former prime minister Margaret Thatcher lessened the teaching of art in schools because it was not “economically productive”.

He added: “She sort of paved the way for the greatest trick that the Tories ever pulled, which was to convince the working people of Britain that study, self-expression, and what the broadsheet supplements describe as culture, is only for particular kinds of people from particular socioeconomic backgrounds, and I just want to say don’t buy in, I’m talking to the public, I’m talking to the British public, don’t buy in, it’s for everyone.”

Darling’s exhibitions are described by the Turner Prize as conveying a “familiar yet delirious world” that “unsettles perceived notions of labour, class, Britishness and power”.

Born in 1981, he studied at Central Saint Martins at the University of the Arts London and completed a masters in fine art at University College London’s Slade School of Fine Art in 2014.

He works across sculpture, installation, video, drawing, sound, text and performance – and in 2021 released a collection of poetry, called Virgins.

Darling was originally nominated for the prize for his largest presentation of his work to date, No Medals, No Ribbons at Modern Art Oxford, which features plastic bags put on steel legs like soldiers and mobility aids bent into strange shapes.

He was also give the nod for Enclosures at Camden Art Centre, which takes a look at how common land was fenced off from public use by the Inclosure Acts.

Darling has also put together solo exhibitions such as Miserere in St James’s Piccadilly, London in 2022, Gravity Road at Kunsteverein Freiburg in Germany in 2020, Creve at Triangle – Asterides in Marseille in 2019 and The Ballad of Saint Jerome in Tate Britain London in 2018.

He beat Ghislaine Leung, who had an exhibition featuring water pouring into the exhibition space through an opening in the ceiling; Rory Pilgrim, who delivered a live performance at Cadogan Hall in London; and Barbara Walker, who shone a light on families affected by the Windrush scandal.

The 2023 jury, chaired by Tate Britain director Alex Farquharson, included Martin Clark, director of Camden Art Centre, and Cedric Fauq, chief curator of Capc musee d’art contemporain de Bordeaux.

Melanie Keen, director of London museum Wellcome Collection, and Helen Nisbet, chief executive and artistic director at gallery Cromwell Place, were also among the judges.

The award goes to an artist born or based in the UK, for an outstanding exhibition or presentation of their work in the past 12 months.

The prize will mark its 40th anniversary next year and return to Tate Britain for the first time since 2018.

An exhibition of the Turner Prize shortlisted artists is at Towner Eastbourne until April 14 2024.

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