The Turner Prize Vs The Turnip Prize or Is Modern Art Pants?

This week sees one of the most eagerly awaited annual awards for contemporary art and what’s even better The Turner Prize too.

The Turner Prize of course is one of the worlds most vaunted awards for contemporary art.  The Turner prize has been running since 1984 and shockingly is named in honour of perhaps the finest artist in British history, JMW Turner.    Whilst Turner liked nothing better than upsetting the establishment and his fellow artists, he did undeniably have one of the greatest portfolios of paintings in the entire 19th Century.

Winners and indeed losers of the Turner prize have long baffled, angered the general public as much as they have relevancy in recent years.  Increasingly the awards have been seen as something of a monumental joke, in fact almost one worthy for entry into its own artistic awards.

I like to think I’m a fan of the arts.  I go to museums, I visit galleries, attend theatres, walk round palaces and cathedrals, listen to a wide variety of music and many of my favourite TV shows and movies aren’t even in English.

Still, I do find some modern art to be something of a mystery.  Some of I admittedly don’t understand, some that I do understand I just don’t appreciate and most of it I just don’t like.  The Turner Prize epitomises this and here are some winners.


Mother and Child Separated.   Yes this won the 1995 Turner Prize, two cows, cut in half and left in formaldehyde by Damien Hirst.  Apparently to make us think of the plight of cows as they are slaughtered for human food consumption.    



My Bed by Tracy Emin – Shortlisted for the 1998 Turner Prize and recognised by the artist as one of her two most seminal works and the one that brought her public noteriety 



A 2015 entry  – Wermers’ chairs refute their immediate contextual reading. Or more likely its just a bunch of chairs with fur coats over the backs.


Many of these exhibits take a great deal of time and money to create. I know, that’s what I thought too!

Inspired by their artistic brilliance, I thought I would have a go myself.  I do hope you enjoy them and will nominate me for the £25,000 prize for 2016.


I like to call this, too much work and not enough time.   It’s as if a successful writer and tour guide just had too many business receipts and didn’t know what to do with them.  Alternatively I’m fed up with them and not sure where to file them any more as I’m a lazy git.  I know… I will put it on my pile which started in 2012 under those red bags.  Like a glacier high up a mountain, sometimes it grows bigger, sometimes it melts away but it never ever seems to go away completely and Christmas time is not the best for paperwork.



The house of the dead

I’d like to title the above classic, the house of the dead.   A serial killer has left his suspicious boots behind to taunt police along with a collection of umbrellas and girls boots kept as trophies.       Alternatively, I had a guided tour to Stonehenge yesterday and it was too muddy for ordinary shoes, and our Airbnb guests came to London prepared for the worse weather with umbrellas and fur lined boots.

It’s not just myself of course who lampoons The Turner Prize.  For the last decade or so The Turner Prize has been running.  Originally started up in a pub in the county of Somerset, it has now been attracting entrants from around the world.  Based upon the supposition “We know its rubbish but is it art?” many fail to win the prize of a turnip nailed to a block of wood because their artwork shows signs of “Too much effort” or “not being sh!t enough”.

Still I much prefer the Turnip Prize, the artists are not at all pretentious, most of them cost next to no money at all, many show a sense of humour and I can understand the meaning behind every one of them.   Below are some of the entrants to the 2015 Turnip Award, I’m sure you’ll agree they are awful and yet so much more worthy than that messy bed.



A clean slate


A Staple Diet


Danger Mouse – the classic children’s TV detective


A roll in the hay… it’s so obvious isn’t it?


The winner of the 1015 Turnip Prize – Dismal And by Bonksy….  a play on the Dismal Land amusement park that ran earlier this year created by Banksy.


Who remembers The Chilean Miners?

The above photos are courtesy of Trevor Prideaux who organises the annual Turnip Prize.   I’d like to offer my own little sneak entry I’m considering to send in to the 2016 competition.


Pacman – A Dairy Retrospective


I didn’t take a great deal of time over this to be honest.  I went on holiday, bought a giant goats cheese and have since eaten slices of it.  Now it looks like it will eat me.

I hope you enjoyed the artwork.  Do you prefer Turner Prize Art or Turnip Prize Art and most importantly of all, is mine worse… I mean better than the others?


About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including several #1 sellers. I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. I run my private tours company with one tour stated by the leading travel website as being with the #1 authentic London Experience. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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