Sat. Jan 22nd, 2022

An 11-person collective from Belfast that aims to transcend Northern Ireland’s political and religious divides has won Britain’s prestigious Turner Prize for visual arts.

Array Collective won the £ 25,000 ($ 46,750) award for The Druithaib’s Ball, a re-creation of a traditional Irish shebeen, an unlicensed pub full of references to 100 years of Northern Ireland’s history.

The installation included a floating roof made of protest and demonstration banners and an entrance of flagpoles referring to ancient Irish ceremonial sites and modern structures.

The collective, which addresses issues including abortion, gay rights, mental health, gentrification and social welfare, described it as “a place to gather outside the sectarian divides”.

Tate Britain’s director and chairman of the judging panel, Alex Farquharson, acknowledged the “difficult, divided sectarian context” in which the collective worked.

“They deal with very important issues, but bring a sense of humor, pleasure, joy, hope and hospitality – often through absurdism, camp, theater, to an otherwise very tense situation,” he said.

“They bring a sense of liberation and a post-sectarian way of thinking.”

Collective member Laura O’Connor said the group would use the prize money to find a permanent base in Belfast, where the redevelopment made the space less affordable for artists.

Named after 19th-century landscape painter Joseph Mallard William Turner, the award was founded in 1984 and helped create stars by ceramicist Grayson Perry, shark jam artist Damien Hirst and filmmaker Steve McQueen.

From a low angle, one looks up at two black-clad gallery officers standing next to a glass display case with half-calves.
In the 1990s, Hirst made a series of installations with animals preserved in formaldehyde in glass boxes.(Reuters: Dylan Martinez)

But it has also been criticized for rewarding impenetrable conceptual work, and it often sparks debate about the value of modern art.

In 2019, all four finalists were declared winners after refusing to compete against each other. Last year’s premium was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This year, all five finalists were collectives rather than individual artists, all with an emphasis on social engagement.

ABC / AP

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