Renowned street artist and Oscar-nominated filmmaker Banksy is now seeking recognition for his awful artwork. The Turnip Prize, in contrast to the career-affirming Turner Prize presented by the Tate Gallery in London, rewards the worst of the art world.
The Turner Prize was set up in 1984 to celebrate the newest developments in contemporary art. Every year, a British artist under fifty is awarded for an outstanding work in the previous twelve months. However, the prestigious award has received criticism since its inception for becoming the establishment that it so attempted to avoid.
In response to the Turner Prize's alleged decline in integrity, the Turnip Prize was started in 1999 as a sort of spoof on the Turner, though media attention for the joke prize has experienced a steady rise. The prize awards art that displays "as little effort and talent as possible." Initially organized by the management and regulars of The George Hotel in Wedmore, Somerset, recipients of the award receive a giant turnip nailed to a block of wood.
This year, the artist Banksy is in the running for the prize with his garishly-framed, "Is Crap art art or is it Crap?" that is essentially a doodle coupled with a half-baked philosophical question. Regardless of Banksy's biting wit, the contest stresses minimal effort, a criteria that has allegedly lost Banksy the prize in past years.
In 2007, a work titled "By The Banksea" (featuring a rocket launcher-toting Mona Lisa) lost because it was found to involve too much effort and thought. The piece was in Bansky's signature black stencil style, though the identity of the artist has been kept a secret. If "By The Banksea" was indeed the work of Banksy, then this could be a year of redemption for the artist known for spoofing the art world. In a weird way, this could be the greatest compliment Bansky has ever received in his career, if only for the fact that someone out there finally gets the joke.
Despite the high profile of a contest that involves the elusive street artist, prize founder Trevo Prideaux denies that Banksy is behind the Turnip's popularity. "This prize was famous way before Banksy," Prideux told the Telegraph. He also noted stiff competition, saying that he was "amazed" by the simplicity and originality of this year's entries. The winner will be announced on the same day of the Turner Prize announcement, December 5th.