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Turner Prize 2019: Are award winners and losers going out of fashion?

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Vogue editor Edward Enninful awarded the Turner Prize to the four nomineesImage copyright
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Vogue editor Edward Enninful (right) awarded the 2019 Turner Prize to the four nominees

“It’s a crazy contest between an orange and a spaceship and a potted plant and a spoon – which one do you like better?”

That’s how singer Anohni, formerly of Antony of the Johnsons, summed up awards in 2005.

She had just won the Mercury Music Prize, but was suggesting it was faintly ridiculous to pit very different artistic works against one another for the sake of a trophy.

The 2019 Turner Prize was a crazy contest between human effigies and a futuristic feminist city and a film about Northern Ireland and a sound installation about Syria.

So, before Tuesday’s prize-giving ceremony, the nominees got together and decided they didn’t want an individual winner to be chosen, instead asking the judges to let them share the coveted art award.

That wasn’t just because it was so hard to compare their works, but because they wanted to make a show of unity in divisive times, and didn’t want one nominee’s political message to be judged as more worthy than the rest.

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There had never been a tie for the Turner Prize before. But the prize has changed since the headline-making days of the mid-1990s. Out have gone the indulgent, attention-grabbing sensations by Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin, and in have come the socially conscious, message-driven works of recent years.

The gesture and the reasons behind it have been warmly received. But now this precedent has been set, will next year’s nominees feel they need to do the same thing?

And after the Booker Prize judges failed to choose one winner this year, is the notion of competition in the arts going out of fashion?

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Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo shared the Booker Prize

“Everyone agrees that competition is the enemy of art,” wrote Charlotte Higgins in the Guardian after the Booker in October. “And yet, on the whole, there is also an agreement to conspire in the notion that it isn’t.”

After all, a competition brings a certain amount of excitement and attention that wouldn’t have been there otherwise – if, for example, the Turner Prize was just another group exhibition.

BBC arts editor Will Gompertz said: “Maybe annual awards like the Turner Prize and the Booker Prize, which also didn’t have a single winner this year, are reaching their sell-by date: an anachronism from a bygone binary age of winners and losers.”

But Turner Prize head judge Alex Farquharson, who runs Tate Britain, told BBC News that Tuesday’s result was “very specific to this year”, and that the award had always evolved in order to stay relevant.

Here are four more recent examples of when artists or judges have decided to share the love – and one where they withheld their love altogether.

Turner Prize 2016

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PA

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Helen Marten said the art world should show “an egalitarian platform of democracy”

Until this year, the closest the Turner Prize had come to a split award was when the 2016 winner, sculptor Helen Marten, decided to share her prize money (if not the prize itself) with her fellow nominees.

“Promoting a hierarchy is never the most useful thing for anyone involved, or the public,” she told BBC News at the time.

Her Turner win came just three weeks after she did the same thing with the £30,000 prize money from her win at the inaugural Hepworth Prize, after which she said art was “deeply subjective”.

“To a certain extent I believe in light of the world’s ever lengthening political shadow that the art world has a responsibility, if not to suggest a provisional means forward, then at least show an egalitarian platform of democracy,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Front Row.

Marten was following the example of the winner of the 2015 Artes Mundi prize, the Chicago artist Theaster Gates, who announced he was sharing his £40,000 prize with the nine other shortlisted artists.

James Tait Black Prize for Fiction 2019

Billed as Britain’s longest running literary awards, the James Tait Black Prizes recognise the best fiction and biography books of the year. Olivia Laing won the fiction award in August for her debut novel Crudo, and said she would share the £10,000 prize with her fellow nominees.

“I said in Crudo that competition has no place in art and I meant it,” Laing told the awards ceremony, according to the Guardian.

“Crudo was written against a kind of selfishness that’s everywhere in the world right now, against an era of walls and borders, winners and losers. Art doesn’t thrive like that and I don’t think people do either.

“We thrive on community, solidarity and mutual support and as such, and assuming this is agreeable to my fellow authors, I’d like the prize money to be split between us, to nourish as much new work as possible.”

Booker Prize 2019

It was the judges rather than the nominees who decided to split this year’s Booker Prize between Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo.

The Booker rules say the prize must not be divided, but the judges insisted they “couldn’t separate” the two works. Peter Florence, the chair, said: “It was our decision to flout the rules.”

He twice told organisers the judges wanted to declare a tie, and twice the organisers said no. The third time, the organisers relented. “We tried voting, it didn’t work,” Florence said. “There’s a metaphor for our times.”

But the decision was criticised by many, with some suggesting Evaristo would have benefited from having the spotlight to herself, whereas Atwood didn’t need it.

One of the judges was writer Afua Hirsch, who said the panel struggled to judge “the titanic career” of Atwood against “the quality and consistency” of Evaristo. That also raised hackles, because they were supposed to be judging individual novels, rather than careers.

“The outcome would always be imperfect, because it was an impossible task,” Hirsch wrote in the Guardian.

Bad Sex in Fiction Award 2019

The Literary Review’s tongue-in-cheek award for the most toe-curling descriptions of sex spoofed the Booker this year by also declaring a tie. Didier Decoin and John Harvey shared the dubious honour.

“We tried voting, but it didn’t work,” the judges said. “We tried again. Ultimately there was no separating the winners.

“Faced with two unpalatable contenders, we found ourselves unable to choose between them. We believe the British public will recognise our plight.”

Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize 2018

The judges of the Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction had a different problem in 2018 – they decided none of the nominees were good enough to win. So the award was withheld.

“We did not feel than any of the books we read this year incited the level of unanimous laughter we have come to expect,” judge David Campbell said.

A statement said there were “many amusing and well-written books”, but “none fulfilled the criteria of making all of the judges laugh out loud”.

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Disney culls ‘Fox’ from 20th Century Fox in rebrand

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The 20th Century Fox logo will lose a word but retain the same look, according to reports

Disney executives have cut the word “Fox” from their 20th Century Fox film studio in an apparent bid to distance it from operations of the previous owner, Rupert Murdoch.

US media suggests Disney does not want to be associated with the media mogul’s highly partisan, right-wing Fox News network.

However, Disney has not clarified its reasons.

It bought the studio, with other media operations, in a $71bn deal last March.

20th Century Fox is known for producing some of the biggest films of all-time, including Avatar and Titanic.

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Variety magazine, which broke the news about the name change, said it had spoken to an unnamed Disney source, who said: “I think the Fox name means Murdoch, and that is toxic.”

Hollywood is known for being liberal, unlike the Australian tycoon.

Disney has also renamed Fox Searchlight Pictures, the arthouse arm, as simply Searchlight Pictures.

Staff emails were changed on Friday, from @fox.com to @20thcenturystudios.com or @searchlight.com.

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Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News has been a cheerleader for Donald Trump

The original 20th Century Fox company was formed in 1935 following a merger.

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation bought it in the mid-1980s, and the Fox News channel was created in 1996, growing to become most-watched in the US.

News Corporation was later split into News Corp and 21st Century Fox – which Disney acquired as the parent company of various film and television studios, including the renowned 20th Century Fox.

The Murdoch family retained the news outlets in a spin-off company, Fox Corporation, which is run by Rupert Murdoch’s son Lachland.

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Variety says the 20th Century Fox studio’s well-known fanfare theme and searchlight logo will be retained.

Disney also runs 20th Century Fox Television and Fox 21 Television Studios. Any changes to their names have not been announced.

Disney is already a dominant force in US news, as the owner of the ABC network. It is also hoping to challenge Netflix with its own streaming service Disney+, which launched in the US last year.



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Jack Reacher author Lee Child passes writing baton to brother

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Lee Child has written 24 Jack Reacher novels

The author of the best-selling Jack Reacher novels is handing over the writing duties to his younger brother.

Lee Child, 65, reportedly considered killing off the 6ft 5ins vigilante hero, who is played by actor Tom Cruise in film adaptations.

But the writer said: “I love my readers and know they want many, many more Reacher stories in the future.”

His brother Andrew Grant, 51, who will write under the pen name Andrew Child, is already an established author.

Child, whose real name is James Grant, said he felt he was “ageing out” of being able to produce more of the books.

He said: “So I have decided to pass the baton to someone who can.”

He described his younger sibling as the “best tough-guy writer I have read in years.”

“We share the same DNA, the same background, the same upbringing,” he said, adding: “He’s me, fifteen years ago, full of energy and ideas.”

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There have been two Jack Reacher films starring Tom Cruise

The Coventry-born author said they would work on the next few novels together “and then he’ll strike out on his own”.

Child started writing after being fired from his job as a presentation director at Granada Television in 1995.

His first Reacher novel, Killing Floor, was published in 1997.

He has since sold more than 100 million books and Amazon has announced it is adapting the series for TV.

The novels, which are set in the United States, have been translated into 40 languages and adapted into two movies starring Cruise.

The protagonist of the book series is a former major in the US Army military police who roams the US investigating suspicious and dangerous situations.

Grant said he had been “blown away” by his elder brother’s first Reacher novel.

He said: “The more time I spent with him in each new adventure, the more I craved the next. So I know what it’s like to wait for the new Reacher novel.”

He added: “I understand what Reacher fans want – because I am one. And I’ll do my best to deliver for them.

“I’ll have to. Because my big brother will be watching.”

The Sentinel, the 25th Jack Reacher novel, is due to be published on 29 October 2020.



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Jazz musician Rex Martey signs record deal aged 82

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An 82-year-old south-Londoner has had his lifetime ambition come true by getting a record deal.

Rex Martey suffers from prostate cancer and needs dialysis three times a week.

He wanted a deal so he could leave a legacy and has been signed by record company The Animal Farm.

One of the songs on his album is dedicated to the cancer nurse who’s treated him for the last few years.

He has pledged a quarter of all sales will go to Guys Hospital.



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