Turner Prize win must not restrict Assemble’s work to the zone of ‘art’

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Turner Prize win must not restrict Assemble’s work to the zone of ‘art’

Turner Prize win must not restrict Assemble’s work to the zone of ‘art’

To help me take stock of Assemble’s Turner Prize win I revisited a lecture by 2003 Turner Prize winner Grayson Perry, delivered in Liverpool in 2013. In it, Grayson offers guidance for discerning the boundaries of contemporary art. These include: Is it in a gallery? Is it made by an artist? And the “themepark + suduko” test; does it shock and make us think?

These boundaries have been getting less and less obvious over recent decades, but it will still have surprised many that a group of young architects won the UK’s most prestigious prize in contemporary art – for a project refurbishing houses in Liverpool.

Assemble are a creative collective and the judges saw their work as sitting in a long tradition of collective art practice. I’m not sure Grayson’s markers of contemporary art are satisfied here, but he offers reassurance that art is a “baggy idea”.

In the series of projects in Granby, South Liverpool, that attracted the attention of the Turner Prize, Assemble worked with local people to redevelop the area in a way that was meaningful to them, using its existing buildings. Their client is Granby 4 Streets Community Land Trust.

Assemble became a major player in a successful urban regeneration project, in an area that had been left to decay for a generation. Initiatives which might have seen these streets re-invigorated or replaced had been tabled before but none came to fruition. So this is a very significant project worthy of recognition by a major national award, although an art prize may seem surprising. […]

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