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Thursday, 31 October, 2002, 12:11 GMT
Minister attacks Turner art
A woman looks at Arsewoman in wonderland by Fiona Banner
The exhibits include a description of a pornographic film
Culture minister Kim Howells has denounced the modern art up for this year's Turner Prize as "cold, mechanical, conceptual bullshit".

Mr Howells left a note at the Tate Britain gallery, where the nominated work is on display, saying British art was "lost" if that was the best it could produce.

Enlarge image
Enlarge image

Mr Howells added his views to a comments board at the gallery

The Turner Prize often causes controversy, and this year's nominated works include a billboard describing a pornographic film and a suspended Perspex ceiling.

Mr Howells, who is minister for tourism, film and broadcasting, is known for his outspoken remarks.

His note, in a specially-designated room for visitors' comments, added: "The attempts at conceptualisation are particularly pathetic and symptomatic of a lack of conviction."


What we need are some real rebels and some real revolutionaries to blow them out of the water

Kim Howells

He felt "disappointed" and "infuriated" after visiting the gallery, he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"It's pretty boring stuff, really," he said.

"I can hardly think of a work of art that has been produced over the past couple of decades that has any kind of purchase over the public consciousness."

History remembers great artists, but today's art establishment is "completely out of touch", he said.

Open in new window : Turner Prize 2002
See the art shortlisted for this year's 20,000 prize

"What we need are some real rebels and some real revolutionaries to blow them out of the water."


Spiritually bankrupt art for a spiritual bankrupt society

Steve Davy, UK

Keith Tyson's drawings and sculptures were the most interesting, he said.

"But they're not very interesting. They're not something I'd cross the street to have a look at."

Fiona Banner's written description of an adult film was "fine, but it's not a brilliant idea," he said.

His latest comments echo those of a former chairman of one of the UK's top art galleries, Ivan Massow, who described conceptual art as "pretentious, self-indulgent, craftless tat".

Kim Howells
Kim Howells went to art school in the 1960s
Mr Howells, who is MP for Pontypridd in Wales, also said there should be more plain speaking and passion in the art world.

A spokesman for the Tate, which organises the prize and exhibition, said today that Mr Howells was entitled to his view like all visitors.

He said: "The purpose of the prize is to prompt discussion around modern developments in contemporary art and we ask for comments in the reading room.

"Everyone who visits the exhibition is entitled to their view and we're pleased to see that many are very positive about the art on view."

His outspoken style has previously seen him describe the royal family as "a bit bonkers" and say his idea of hell was listening to three Somerset folk singers.

Visitors look at Liam Gillick's Coats of Asbestos Spangled with Mica
Visitors look at Liam Gillick's Coats of Asbestos Spangled with Mica
The Turner Prize has caused outcries in the past by picking winners like Rachel Whiteread's "inside out" room and Damien Hirst's dead sheep.

The 2001 award was won by Martin Creed, whose winning installation was a room in which the light turned on and off.

Among the 2002 nominees, Keith Tyson's vividly-coloured paintings have helped make him the bookmakers' favourite.

He is also exhibiting an octagonal monolithic block with computer machinery inside called The Thinker (After Rodin).

Banner's work concentrates on the use of language and her exhibits include bronze casts of giant full stops, one of which can be used as a seat.

Liam Gillick's Perspex ceiling re-creates the sense of light coming through a stained glass window in the gallery.

The final nominee, Catherine Yass, is showing two films at the show.

One is a movie shot from a remote controlled helicopter and the other is a film shot on a crane raised in the mist at Canary Wharf in London.

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Kim Howells
"It's pretty boring stuff"
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