Fed Up with Being Overlooked, the North Is Taking on the Turner Prize with Its Own Modern Art Awards

By Millard, Rosie | New Statesman (1996), October 20, 2003 | Go to article overview

Fed Up with Being Overlooked, the North Is Taking on the Turner Prize with Its Own Modern Art Awards


Millard, Rosie, New Statesman (1996)


To Manchester for the Ten O'Clock News to find evidence of what southerners have long known--that within everyone who lives uppermost of the Watford Gap, there is a deep resentment of all things London, from our confident cockney to our congestion charge. So, a month before the Turner Prize, please welcome the Comme Ca Art Prize North, run by the Comme Ca Gallery in Manchester. This award aims to "dispel the idea that the UK art scene is centred only on the capital", thus taking on the Turner.

Before putting on my windcheater and venturing to Euston Station, I had an espresso with the London Evening Standards contemporary art guru, Andrew Rentun. A Mancunian himself, Reuton sees it thus: "It's very worthy, having an art prize for the north. But the fact is that Britain is the most capital-centric place in Europe. And any ambitious artist will want to work in London, because that is where the commercial heart of the English contemporary art world is. The only other place is Glasgow, which deals directly with Europe."

We arrived in Manchester through a horizontal cloudburst. At the gallery, the staff were being put through their paces ("Be chilled. But positive"), while the shortlisted artists were preparing for a Media Onslaught from Anthony H Wilson, something of a Mancunian artwork himself, authoring a TV documentary on the prize.

Two guys known as The Little Artists, who perhaps enjoy their image as a version of the "gruesome twosome" Chapman Brothers, were posing for the cameras, sticking their tongues out.

Their piece for the show was a simulacrum of the art world using Lego. Tiny versions of the Hirst Shark, the Whiteread House, even Carl Andre's "'Tate" Bricks, stood in a midget-sized gallery full of Lego people representing the entire London art scene- a child's-eye version marvelling at the real art world. …

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