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They Did What?: 

This lady won the £25,000 Turner Prize last year. This year it’s not quite so normal


Laure Prouvost models a bonnet made of fish. Nothing to see here…

Meet Laure Prouvost, winner of the 2013 Turner Prize for her video installation about a non-existent grandfather. At the time, people said the famous modern art prize was perhaps getting a bit divorced from reality. What will they say this year?

The shortlist for the 2014 Turner Prize, announced this week, includes a print maker, a ‘storyteller’ and two video artists. One of them, Welshman James Richards, is nominated for a 13-minute black and white clip mixing his own abstract footage with photographs from Japanese erotic books which have had all the genitalia removed with sandpaper.

Richards, who lives in Berlin, is known for piecing together YouTube clips with his own footage and VHS tapes found in charity shops. Why? Don’t bother going to his website for an explanation. All you’ll get is a close-up picture of a man cutting some latex from his forehead.

The art world’s strangest prize winners

All of this is par for the course at the Turner Prize, where in 2001 Martin Creed won £20,000 for his Work No. 227: The Lights Going On And Off – an empty room with lights that flickered off and on every five seconds. Creed warned that people should not look for too much meaning in his work.

Canada is equally open-minded. Czech artist Jana Sterbak won the 2012 Governor General’s Award in Visual And Media Arts. She’s best known for her Flesh Dress For An Albino Anorectic: a dress made entirely of meat. It was a comment on vanity, years before Lady Gaga stole the idea.

When Sterbak’s flesh dress was displayed in the National Gallery in Montreal, traditional artists were outraged that it could be considered art. Their protest? Mailing scraps of food to the gallery. This is why artists should not be trusted with stamps.

2010 MTV Video Music Awards: Press Room, Los Angeles, America - 12 Sep 2010

Meat thief Lady Gaga ‘borrowed’ her dress idea from Czech artist Jana Sterbak

In 2008 Dutch Artist Henk Hofstra – winner of the Sign + Award for outdoor art – installed eight giant fried eggs in Leuwaarden’s main square. Intended as an environmental commentary of some sort, the 100ft eggs remained in place for six months, disturbing pigeons.

 Dutch artist Bart Jansen showed up in 2012 with a helicopter made out of his dead cat 
Holland is a good place to see weird art. Every year there’s a modern art exhibition called KunstRAI, with a prize – the Lecturis Award – for the young artist showing the most promise. Local artist Bart Jansen showed up in 2012 with a helicopter made out of his dead cat. He’s a lot more sensible these days. His most recent work is an ostrich-copter.

Back in the USA, Miami artist Orestes de la Paz – last year’s winner of the Geoffrey Olson Award – not only made 20 bars of soap from his own liposuctioned body fat, he then sold them for $1,000 each. For those interested, the soap is made of 30% organic coconut oil, 15% African shea butter, a touch of lavender oil and a dab of tea tree oil. And did we mention the human blubber?

Many of the artists above have at some stage lived or worked in Berlin, one of the world centres of modern art. That’s where you would have seen this 2008 piece by ESSL Award-nominated Austrian artist Deborah Sengl. It’s called Puma As Dentist Treats Stag As Patient because, well, that’s what it is.

Puma Stag dentistry

“Say ‘ahhhhhhh’ – now, have you been flossing?”

Perhaps the most decorated modern artist, however, is Serbia’s Marina Abramovic. She has won eight international art awards and two honorary doctorates in her forty-year career. It all started with this 1974 installation entitled Rhythm O, she sat for six hours next to a table of objects which viewers were invited to use on her body, including a feather boa, roses, honey, scissors and a loaded gun. Some people cut up her clothes, some scratched her with the rose thorns and one person did aim the gun at her head – until another art lover took it away.

It seems a long way from loaded guns to messing about with YouTube clips. So the question for this week’s Turner Prize shortlisted artists is: do you feel lucky? Well do you, punk?

Photo: Tate
Photo: Sipa Press/REX
Photo: Deborah Sengl/REX

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