The Turner Prize: Then and Now

by Cass Art

There must have been something in the air in 1984. Not only was it the year Cass Art first opened its doors, but it was also when the Turner Prize was set up to recognise the work of young British artists. 

Since then both Cass Art and the Turner Prize have been working individually to shake up definitions and expectations of what is art. who should make it, and what it aims to do. 

To celebrate the 30th birthday of one of Britain's foremost art prizes, we have put together a rundown of some of the Turner Prize's most memorable moments.

 1.      Malcolm Morley wins first prize

Malcolm Morley kicked up a stink because he had not set foot in the UK for 20 years before being given the award, choosing instead to settle stateside. The artist responded to his critics by denouncing the prize ever so gratefully as a "disgusting…horse race". 

 2.      Damien Hirst's Mother and Child, Divided

In 1995, the man who was to become one of Britain's most-talked-about artists crash-landed into the Turner Prize – and our headlines too. Damien Hirst won for his Mother and Child, Divided, two tanks of formaldehyde containing the dissected bodies of a cow and calf. The piece allowed spectators to get up close and personal with the animals' insides. 

Damien Hirst 

 3.     The Sound of Silence

1997 was the first year in which the Turner's list of nominations was made up entirely of women, and the second in which it was won by a video artist. Birmingham-born Gillian Wearing picked up £20,000 for 60 Minutes of Silence, a film featuring 26 uniformed police officers standing still for an hour.

 4.      Tracey Emin's My Bed

Emin is synonymous with the prize but she actually didn't win, despite the amount of press her work received. Her installation My Bed – a double bed littered with condoms, dirty pants and empty bottles of booze – was a huge talking point in 1999 and has kept her in the limelight of the art world ever since. 

Tracey Emin 

 5.      Sex and Death

Jake and Dinos Chapman exhibited the sculptures Sex and Death, depicted at the top of the blog. Sex is shown by dismembered corpses hanging from a tree, Death as two bronze figures, painted to look plastic and caught in a rather compromising position.

This year the Turner Prize will be presented at Tate Britain from September 30th. Nominated artists are Duncan Campbell, Ciara Phillips, James Richards and Tris Vonna-Michell. 

Feeling inspired?

We've arranged lots of things so you can celebrate 1984 and 30 years of Cass Art in style.

Enter our Prize Draw and win £5000 worth of prizes - there are 30 prizes for 30 years, so enter here with a chance to win. 

Get yourself a Limited Edition 30th Anniversary Art in Bag - find out more and read about the history of the Cass Art bags on our blog.

Every weekend throughout June and July there will be a Back To 1984 Prices offer - sign up to our newsletter here to receive the different discounts. 

Shop online
 to stock up on your art materials and take advantage of our 30th Anniversary sale, or shop the sale at all six of our London shops in IslingtonCharing CrossSohoHigh Street KensingtonHampstead and Kingston.

Image Credits

Image 1 - Jake and Dinos' Champan's Sex

Image 2  – Damien Hirst’s Mother and Child Divided: Fiona Hanson/PA Wire

Image 3 - Tracey Emin’s My Bed: Tony Harris/PA Wire

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