Northern Ireland’s Array Collective was crowned winners of the prestigious Turner Prize 2021 on Wednesday, December 1. Their installation, ‘a pub without permission’, replicates a traditional Irish pub, and boasts banners protesting things like conversion therapy, and advocating for abortion rights.
The work was praised by judges for this very reason, as they admired how the group addressed social and political issues in their native Northern Ireland. Jury chair and Tate Britain director, Alex Farquharson, said: “What they deal with is really serious stuff, LGBT issues, feminist perspectives on issues today in a divided society, even a sectarian society.
“What the jury feels is remarkable is that kind of amazing lightness of touch and play and conviviality and sense of hospitality, and the sense of carnival that they bring to their work,” he continued.
Organisers also commented that “Array invite us into a place of contradictions where trauma, dark humour, frustration and release coexist. It is a place to gather outside the sectarian divides that have dominated the collective memory of the North of Ireland for the last hundred years.”
? The #TurnerPrize2021 winner is… Array Collective! ? @array_studios
Congratulations to the Belfast-based collective who created a welcoming, immersive & surprising exhibition.
See work by all of the outstanding nominees @The_Herbert until 12 January. https://t.co/Z66N8ED0bU pic.twitter.com/z3IRGfVGPh
— Tate (@Tate) December 1, 2021
The Array Collective beat four other competitors to collect the £25,000 prize and made history by becoming the first-ever Northern Irish group to win. They described the achievement as “surreal”, and said that the money would go towards rent for their Belfast-based studio.
A member of the collective, Laura O’Connor, said: “It’s really pushed us to create something new – especially because we’ve not been making work over the last year, or showing work over the last year or two, with lockdown and everything.
“So it’s really motivated us and it’s pushed [us] and it’s changed maybe how we work.”
Stephan Millar added, “We are so proud to be from Belfast, to be of Belfast and the communities we work with.
“The Sibin was for everyone of Belfast but it’s also for all the collectives in this room. We see you we support you. We’re with you.”
What a moment in the Black Box in Belfast as the winners of this year’s Turner Prize are announced. The Belfast-based Array Collective become first ever NI winners #TurnerPrize #Arraycollective pic.twitter.com/KBDy89Ssiu
— Catherine Morrison (@CackyMo) December 1, 2021
The runners-up were Black Obsidian Sound System, Cooking Sections, Gentle/Radical, and Project Art Works, who were all awarded £10,000 each for their efforts.
The award was presented to the Array Collective at Coventry Cathedral, and a free exhibition showcasing their work and that of the other four collectives is being displayed at the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum in Coventry until January 12, 2022.
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