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Monday, 10 December, 2001, 10:38 GMT
Critics split over Turner winner
Winner labelled a
Winner labelled a "joke" by traditionalists
The nation's art critics appear to be divided after this year's Turner Prize was awarded to Martin Creed for The Lights Going On and Off.

Creed, 33, collected 20,000 from pop icon Madonna for his controversial installation, which features an empty gallery with a pair of lights flashing on and off every five seconds.

The ceremony took place at London's Tate Britain, where Creed beat off competition from Mike Nelson, Richard Billingham and Isaac Julien.

The shortlist attracted the usual attention given to a Turner Prize shortlist, but Creed's hit headlines immediately.

Madonna gave the 20,000 cheque to Creed
Madonna gave the 20,000 cheque to Creed

The decision to award Creed the prize left David Lee, editor of satirical art magazine The Jackdaw, less than impressed.

"Last year, the Tate was scraping the barrel. This year they are scraping the scrapings," he told The Times.

"A light being switched on and off is not a good work of art."

The paper's art critic Rachel Campbell-Johnson was more sympathetic.

"His flickering installation may mean everything or it may mean nothing," she said.

Martin Creed's exhibit
Martin Creed's exhibit caused the most controversy
"But at least it gives the viewer something to look at, something more interesting than plotless movies and planks of wood."

Adrian Serle from The Guardian felt there was nothing particularly new or revolutionary about the installation.

"Works like this have a long history, an impeccable pedigree going back a century," said Serle.

"He (Creed) is good at making something out of nothing, which is often seen as a kind of virtue, but which here has had people spluttering and complaining that anyone could have done it."


The Independent's Tom Lubbock hailed the work as the "best" of the four shortlisted.

"The whole point of the Turner Prize is to attract attention. So perhaps it's only right that the artist on the shortlist who attracts the most attention should win it," said Lubbock.

This year's jury included Patricia Bickers, editor of Arts Monthly, Susan Ferleger Brades, director of the Hayward Gallery, Michael Archer, writer and arts critic, Greville Worthington, representative of the Patrons of New Art, and Nicholas Serota.

In a joint statement, the jury said they "admired the audacity in presenting a single work in the exhibition and noted its strength, rigour, wit and sensitivity to the site."


But dissent against the judges' choice has already begun, after a group of traditionalists called The Stuckists protested outside the Tate.

They made their feelings known with their own makeshift, modernist masterpiece - flashing handheld torches on and off.

The group's founder, Charles Thomson, said: "This has gone beyond a joke. The only people who cannot see how ridiculous it is are the organisers themselves."

Creed has admitted that he did not know what the work means.

He said: "I can't explain it. The lights go on and off. I like it, it's full of life. I don't know what other people think of it."

Creed was born in Wakefield and graduated from the Slade School of Fine Art in 1990. He lives in Alicubi, Italy.

The show, at Tate Britain, runs until 20 January 2002.

The BBC's Razia Iqbal
"Amidst what seemed to be whole-hearted support there was some boo-ing"
Tate Britain's Simon Wilson
"Turner prize winners are often at a crucial stage in their careers"
See also:

03 Apr 01 | Arts
Tate leads museum boom
02 Apr 01 | Arts
Tate team wins major award
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