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Prizes and age limits (again): the case of the #TurnerPrize

by on November 18, 2016

We have blogged before about prizes and age limits, including Katrina’s blog post about the Turner Prize last year when she called for an explanation for having an upper age limit of 50 years and for a change in policy. We received some supportive comments at the time.

It’s back in the news again, with this piece by Jonathan Jones in The Guardian recently arguing for the abolition of the age limit. He explains the rationale for the age limit (we didn’t get a reply from the Tate to our queries last year). Apparently the rule was introduced in 1991 to clarify that the prize is not a lifetime achievement award and to prevent it being won every year by Lucian Freud, or other established British artists. Interesting that it didn’t have an age limit to start with. But I’d say there are other ways of achieving their aim other than by using an age limit.

The position contrasts with the new Hepworth Prize for Sculpture which has just been awarded to Helen Marten.  As reported by the BBC, she has said that she will share the £30,000 award with her fellow nominees, in part in response to what she describes as the “the hierarchical position of art prizes today [which] is to a certain extent flawed”.

In contrast to many prizes, including the Turner Prize, the Hepworth prize has no nominating criteria: no age limit, no career requirements, and no rules on what counts as sculpture. Helen Marten (who is 31) is up for the Turner Prize as well and has said she will share that too if successful.

It remains to be seen if the Hepworth’s move to more relaxed nominating criteria lead to the abolition of the Turner Prize age limit.

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