Turner Prize cites an ‘ethical bond’ in giving the award to all four finalists

Britain's Turner Prize winners
This year’s Turner Prize winners, from left: Tai Shani, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Helen Cammock and Oscar Murillo.
(Associated Press)

The prestigious Turner Prize for art has been awarded to — everyone.

All four of the artists chosen as finalists won this year’s award after they wrote to the jury and asked to be treated as a collective, prize organizers said Tuesday during a ceremony at the Turner Contemporary gallery in Margate, England.

Artists Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Helen Cammock, Oscar Murillo and Tai Shani said that, at a time when the world is divided, they wanted “to make a collective statement in the name of commonality, multiplicity and solidarity — in art as in society.”

Jury president Alex Farquharson said award judges agreed unanimously to the request.

Farquharson, director of the Tate Britain gallery in London, said the four artists — Beirut-based Hamdan and London artists Cammock, Murillo and Shani — had not met before they were shortlisted for the prize earlier this year, but had since “formed a real creative and ethical bond.”


“It’s not four winners. It’s one winner, and it’s the four of them as a collective,” he said.

All four of the artists explore political terrain. Cammock has delved into the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland, Shani created a feminist science-fiction world, Murillo is influenced by the history of his native Colombia, and Hamdan interviewed former inmates of a notorious Syrian prison for a sound installation.

Usually the Turner Prize winner receives 25,000 pounds ($32,000) and the runners-up $5,000. This year the four artists can divide the $40,000 prize pot however they wish.

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 pickler Damien Hirst and ”12 Years a Slave“ director Steve McQueen.

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

The surprise Turner result follows a contentious decision by jurors of this year’s Booker Prize for fiction to split the award between two writers, Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo. The move was widely criticized in the publishing industry as watering down the impact of the award.


Farquharson said the Turner Prize had “broken the mold” before, with recent winners and nominees including architects and human-rights researchers.

He said innovating had “kept the Turner Prize dynamic and surprising and not ossified.”

“I don’t think it would have had that long history had it not evolved, had it not surprised us,” he said.