After 1997 election win Blair jumped up and down…’I’m Prime Minister! I
did it!’

By MICHAEL LEVY, Daily Mail.

Turner Prize Invitation 1997.

Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection held at the Royal Academy of Arts in London

Rachel Whiteread represents Britain at Venice Biennale


When I was looking through the list of the Turner Prize competitions to decide which years I would feature on here, 1997 more or less selected itself; not just for the fact that it once again caused “controversy” amongst claims of “positive discrimination” caused by it being the first year to have an all female shortlist, (see below), but also because of what else was going on in British art and world in general, as shown in the above headlines selected  from the year .



  • Penelope Curtis, curator, Henry Moore Institute, Leeds
  • Lars Nittve, Director of the Louisiana Museum, Humlebaek, Denmark
  • Marina Vaizey, writer, art critic and lecturer
  • Jack Wendler, representative of the Patrons of New Art
  • Nicholas Serota, Director, Tate Gallery

All-female shortlist takes Turner by surprise

The announcement of selection of the first ever all-female  shortlist for the Turner Prize once again brought the publics attention on to the competition for reasons beyond the art. It was seen as a direct and politically correct reaction to the previous years all male shortlist:

1996 Short list:

A situation which wasn’t helped by one of those shortlisted making the comment:

‘Maybe you have to go to the extremes to even out the inequalities of the past.’

– Christine Borland as quoted in The Guardian, 1997

This fortunately wasn’t the over-riding view, and when those actually selected were considered on merit it became clear that they had been selected for the right reasons. This was the time of the rise of the  Young British Artist movement and British female artists were to be found in there in strength .The Royal Academy’s exhibition Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection ran almost concurrently with the Turner Prize at this time as if to prove this. As did Rachel Whiteread’s selection as the first British female artist to have a solo show in the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale that year. So generally the more sensible attitude of people like Cornelia Parker prevailed.

‘It’s hardly surprising that it is all-women. There are a lot of artists around. When I was trying to think of who would be on the shortlist I kept coming up with women.’

– Cornelia Parker as quoted in The Guardian, June 1997

Ironically for me in wasn’t one of the strongest showings in the competition’s history and I think that for most people it was one of those years where the eventual winner was extremely predictable.

Gillian Wearing

Next weekend; Hilary Lloyd and 2001.