The Turner Prize
Public Toilet by Paul Noble is one of four works shortlisted for the Turner Prize. Image Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery, London

Unless you have spent the last few months living under a rock then you’ll know that London was the place to be this summer. However, on the off chance that you missed the television coverage; tweets; emotionally manipulative adverts for washing up liquid; and bizarre mascots that look a cross between Homer’s Polyphemus and a character from Spongebob Square Pants, then allow me to fill you in. This past summer London played host to the Olympic and Paralympic Games; and bore witness to a rise in national pride and morale. It was like we each had an adorable corgi showering us with love and affection.

I assumed I would hate the Olympics. All that goodwill and that ‘show must go on’ positive attitude made me want to crawl into a nice shadowy corner and complain. Not to mention the amount of sport interrupting my treasured ‘Homes under the Hammer’ and ‘Cash in the Attic’ morning routine. However, I honestly could not have enjoyed it more. One hungover and sunburnt day on holiday with friends we watched 11 hours straight. From a giant inflatable Voldemort to the Spice Girls the whole thing was amazing. Not to mention the extraordinary feats of human ability at the Paralympics. However, then it was over, and what my mother calls ‘pricked balloon syndrome’ kicked in. The excitement was past, the sun, if it had even been there at all, was gone and all that lay ahead was doom, gloom and dissertation. Or so one might think.

Whilst I may depend upon the fact that, as well as death and taxes, I will have to do my dissertation; doom and gloom need not register on the horizon and national pride may continue, as the Turner Prize is yet to come. For those who aren’t aware of the ins and outs of Nicholas Serota or the Stuckists, the Turner Prize is a contemporary art award, set up in 1984 to celebrate new developments in contemporary art. It is often met with shock, debate, protest and catchy titles from a Tabloid paper I shall leave nameless. If you love art it is a must see. If you love to hate art you shouldn’t miss it. If you simply love a hyperbolic opinion then get yourself down to the Tate Britain from the 2nd of October.

However, controversial or not the Turner Prize has helped foster interest in contemporary art, particularly British, and is recognised as one of the most important and prestigious awards for art in Europe. It also rewards the winning artist with £25,000 and the other nominees receive £5,000 each.

I think it is wonderful that we are part of a nation that can see the potential in nurturing and rewarding talent, whether the talented are artists or long-distance runners. The enthusiasm generated by the Olympics was not just for more gold medals then you can shake a stick at. It also involved the Cultural Olympiad, hailed as the ‘largest cultural celebration in the history of the modern Olympic and Paralympic Movements’. This reached into many areas of culture in Britain and included a range of projects by artists who were encouraged to use GB as a blank canvas.

The Turner Prize, and the artists it favours, may not appeal to everyone, just like I was always more adept with a paintbrush than a hockey stick at school. However, I found a source of inspiration and pride in the Olympics that we as Brits could achieve so much, try so hard and be so encouraging and supportive to others. I see no reason that this spirit cannot stretch to other areas of our lives, with a renewed interest in art and the Turner Prize as more than just a sounding board of what is wrong with society being the perfect place to start. The Olympic flame may have gone out, but the sense of national pride it brought need not.

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