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Monday, 4 November, 2002, 08:32 GMT
Turner Prize: Is it art?
"Cold, mechanical, conceptual bullshit" is how culture minister Kim Howells has described this year's Turner Prize entries.

The Tate Modern exhibition "infuriated" and "disappointed" Mr Howells and he pinned a frank note to a message board at the gallery on his way out.

After studying art for four years in the 60s, the Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting believes British art is "lost" and we need to invoke more passion about it.

He laments that plain speaking is always missing from discussions about art; and to make amends, compared Liam Gillick's "very, very boring" perspex roof to a canteen ceiling and said he wouldn't cross the road for Keith Tyson's sculptures.

Mr Howells recognises that this is the work that sells and that modern artists are shaped by the tastes of their teachers but called for a creative revolution to "blow them out of the water."

Do you find Mr Howells' frankness refreshing or limiting? Are his views old-fashioned to you or truthful? How much credibility does the controversial Turner Prize have with you?

This Talking has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Such a wonderful arrangement of bricks

Katie, Kent, England
I do wish the judges would visit my back garden, my husband would win the Turner Prize without question! Such a wonderful arrangement of bricks with white plastic garden furniture placed elegantly around said bricks and then some foliage placed on top randomly cut from overgrown trees it's a winner every year!!!
Katie, Kent, England

Tracy Emin's bed looks like mine after I've made it.
Dave, GB

The objective of this type of art is to make people feel emotion, regardless of whether that emotion is positive or negative. If you feel sadness or pity for these artists, you've completed your part of the bargain with them; they have gotten an emotion out of you. Personally, I make a point of not feeling anything. I have no gripe against modern art, but the Turner Prize ignores an awful lot of good art in order to show us the ordinary.
Peter Connolly, England

I really like the entries this year. They are accessible and interactive, and the sort of thing that keeps young people interested in becoming artists. Some people obviously think art is just about pretty portraits and pleasant landscapes.
Deborah, UK

It was the great sage Red Green who said "There's only one way that I judge art. If I can do it, it's not art."
Kevin Peterson, USA

This should be of no concern to the national media

This should be of no concern to the national media. Not that many people go to the Turner prize exhibition. It is the equivalent of reporting on a contentious vegetable contest in deepest Suffolk.

The Turner Prize is much more about a media event than art, and as such reflects an increasing trend of modern life, form over substance.
Paul, UK

Art is anything one calls art. It is not simply oils or watercolours on canvass. Why limit the boundaries of human expression?
Matthew Pelly, UK

I have studied Art at college and university, and what I see at the Turner prize is lack of talent, a child produces better work with more meaning. I'm sorry but last year's winner with the light turning on and off was pointless. Bring back the sketch books and the paint brushes, and let "real artists" produce work that people want!
Claire S, Staffordshire, UK

Personally I think it's all very twisted. It's not real art, it's just bits of rubbish and they call it art, that's not talent.
Denzel Foster, England, UK

Typographical error. For "Tate Modern", read "Tat Modern".
Chris B, England

I propose that this year's Turner art prize goes to Kim Howells

Neil, UK
I propose that this year's Turner art prize goes to Kim Howells. His use of the medium of Notepaper, combined with the self referential subject matter is surely more imaginative and inspiring, and certainly more controversial than any of the other exhibits.
Neil, UK

I read a comment that said the entries for the Turner Prize at least made you think! Well I'm sorry but that is total nonsense. The entries don't make me think they just make me angry and sad. How anyone can possibly mistake the dross that some of these people call "art" is utterly beyond me, and, I would hope beyond most sane people! The minister made very honest comments and I would like to thank him on behalf of all of us who recognise this rubbish for what it really is; a way for people with no talent to gain some attention!
Kenny Toal, Scotland

You cannot blame the artists for what they produce, whether it is painting, modelling, photography or the sort of thing they put in the for the Turner prize. You blame the people who brainwashed them into this way of thinking, the universities and art colleges. I fully agree with Mr Howells, what a waste of time effort and money from every one involved in the Tate Modern and the Turner prize.
James, Bristol

What you see on display is nothing new

Antonio, UK
I'm very displeased with the Turner Prize and its given "celebrity" status. What you see on display is nothing new. Conceptual Art has been around for a long time (see Marcel Duchamp) so all these newcomers that are praised for they new ideas and for moving art into new directions are not pushing art into new directions at all. They are stuck and they have no new ideas or skill. Is the press making use the lack of knowledge (notice I didn't use the word ignorance) from the public that makes the contest and its participants popular.
Antonio, UK

It's not the pieces that I despise as much as the smug tones of the descriptions given by the critics that wind me up. There is a nasty "in crowd" feeling of "if you don't get it it's because you have no depth"
Matt, Amsterdam, Netherlands, ex UK

Art, like music, is not made to win prizes - so who really cares? The artists who are nominated and win didn't create their works to win prizes, so who is it you're all attacking?
Sam Freeman, UK

I like the idea of a prize that helps push the boundaries and makes us think about art. However every year we have this debate we never seem to get beyond name calling. No one seems to be expressing any opinion about what IS art, and then measuring the Turner entrants against a standard. Can someone on the Turner committee put forward their definition of Art?
Malcolm, UK

One of art's main functions is to make people see things from a different viewpoint and the Turner Prize obviously does that. Whether you like it or not is a matter of personal preference but it at least made you think. Artists have always experimented and most of these experiments have been unpopular at the time. Fifty years from now many of the exhibits will be accepted as quite conventional.
John Michael, England

Spiritually bankrupt art

Steve Davy, UK
They say that art reflects life. I think the current round of Turner Prize winning art reflects perfectly the modern times. Spiritually bankrupt art for a spiritual bankrupt society.
Steve Davy, UK

Just let the artists continue building their toy pieces of conceptual art in their funny little sand-pits, and let the media continue using their crayons to write pieces about the artists in their funny little sand-pits. Meanwhile, the rest of us can continue living our lives.
John Frasier, London, UK

As pretty and colourful as the exhibits are, I don't like the idea of paying such a huge sum of money for the prize. There are more deserving, and genuinely talented, artists around.
David, UK

It's worrying that a culture minister does not know enough about modern trends in culture to make a more informed comment on what he has seen.
Andrew, UK

Whatever happened to paint?
Anne, UK

I am pleased that many artists are not pandering to the tastes of the majority

Martin, UK
Every year we have the same controversy. Well, it is art, you may not like it or understand it but that doesn't stop it being art. I am pleased that many artists are not pandering to the 'chocolate box' tastes of the majority and at least attempting to push art forward in new directions. Personally, I find modern art exciting, and have done since my first visit to Madrid's Museum of Modern Art. Of course 'traditional' art has merit but not to the exclusion of contemporary art.
Martin, UK

So an MP doesn't like it - tough. It's just another example of an MP who thinks his views matter. I consider the Turner Prize to be very relevant and from what I've seen so far on this site I will very likely go to the Tate and see the real thing!
Richard Soper, UK

Some random thoughts: Art acts as social commentary. A person can only render into something else a quality they have seen in themselves. Basically, it's not the art that's boring, it's the person looking at it.
Jack, UK

The best thing to do about the Turner Prize is to ignore it. Don't report on it, don't pay to go and see it, don't talk about it. Then these artists will be forced to stop thinking about how to get headlines, and instead start thinking about art.
Matthew, UK

Use the prize money to pay for art classes for the nominees. Now THAT'S a concept!
Michael Swain, Bermuda

Art should be something to be admired

Richard B, Essex
Art should be something to be admired, created by someone with a talent that not everyone has. 'Modern art' demonstrates no such talent or creativeness and is simply boring rubbish.
Richard B, Essex, UK

Mr Howells - is he the most honest politician in Britain?
Susan, UK

The Turner Prize contestants are chosen as a result of their track records over the previous year. If people are not familiar with the works made by the artists prior to their selection then, inevitably, they will find their entry exhibits inaccessible. I work in the arts, I travel abroad on business and I am well aware of the reasons that presently ensure that Britart has such an important place in the international art world. If you still cannot understand what I am on about then try asking why it is that Tate Modern has such a high level of visitor attendance.
John Lawrence, UK

Some this year are truly good

Mel, London
Some this year are truly good. Yet the one that is attracting the media attention frankly does not deserve it. It is a total waste of canvas and anyone in my department could have done it. The three favourites are great. All of them deserve merit and are separately and differently brilliant. Yet again though it has become a media circus of the obscure and this is what I detest about the Turner Prize. It ruins what is honestly good in the competition.
Mel, London

Can we all please try and ignore the pathetic, attention seeking child that is the Turner Prize, and hopefully it will go away?!
Mike Donovan, UK

I think the Turner Prize stimulates thought and discussion about the nature and direction of art. Often its entries seem bizarre in concept or appear poorly executed - but at least it constantly challenges our perceptions.
Paul Nagle, England

Unfit to grace the interior of an abandoned skip

Alex Ainley, Italy
If you take the broad view that art is the expression of the individual for the enjoyment of the many, then the Turner entries are art if people enjoy them. That they are tenth-rate pieces of sub-kindergarten tat unfit to grace the interior of an abandoned skip is another matter. I congratulate these artists for making a tidy living out of the crass cow-like stupidity of the rest of us.
Alex Ainley, Italy

I have just spilled my coffee on my desk and keyboard. I think it makes a jolly good piece of art. Can anyone tell me how to enter the competition?
Anthony, London, UK

Well, it's that time of year again when the media dusts off and reprints their lame jokes about the Turner prize nominees. There is a basic misunderstanding of the purpose of the prize - it's not about celebrating the cutting edge of contemporary art. It's all about getting cheap publicity for the Tate gallery and its sponsors. Hence each year they carefully pick one work which will give the tabloids a chance to trot out the usual nonsense about how "My three-year-old child could do better" (or even "I've just spilt coffee on my keyboard - is it art?") The Turner prize isn't going to change until the media grow up a little and start ignoring the deliberate sensationalism of the selecting committee, rather than encouraging it by providing the free column inches they seek.
Stuart Whatling, UK

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31 Oct 02 | Arts
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