Jesse Darling, a 41-year-old sculptor known for their transformative use of ordinary objects, has been awarded the prestigious Turner Prize. The announcement took place at the Towner Eastbourne art museum in southern England, where an exhibition featuring works by all four nominated artists, including Darling, will run until April 14.
Alex Farquharson, the director of Tate Britain and chair of the prize jury, praised Darling’s ability to manipulate commonplace objects in inventive ways, creating artworks that evoke a society teetering on the edge of collapse. Farquharson noted the impressiveness of an artist using everyday items to craft something entirely novel.
Darling’s competition included three other nominees: Barbara Walker, recognized for her portraiture of Black subjects, sometimes directly drawn onto gallery walls; Ghislaine Leung, an installation artist exploring the challenges of balancing motherhood with an art career; and Rory Pilgrim, a multimedia artist and musician.
Working with a variety of media, including sculpture, performance, and digital elements, Darling studied at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam, as well as at Central Saint Martins and the Slade School of Fine Art in London. In a 2012 interview, they mentioned having engaged in diverse occupations for financial support, ranging from music journalism and sex work to stints as a chef.
While gaining prominence in their thirties, Darling’s breakthrough in Britain came with exhibitions at the 2019 Venice Biennale and the Tate Britain in London. Notably, the Turner Prize nomination followed solo shows at smaller institutions: Modern Art Oxford and Camden Art Center. Currently residing in Berlin, Darling’s award-winning work at the Towner Eastbourne includes metal crowd barriers creatively contorted to resemble animals crawling across the gallery floor or urinating against walls.
Art critics, including Alastair Sooke of The Daily Telegraph, praised Darling’s work as “the most exhilarating” Turner Prize nominee in years. Describing the art as brimming with “brilliant ideas and touches,” Sooke expressed enthusiasm for Darling’s contribution.
Established in 1984, the Turner Prize is a prestigious international art award, with past winners such as Steve McQueen, Antony Gormley, and Damien Hirst achieving global acclaim. However, in recent years, the prize faced criticism for focusing more on political activism than aesthetics. Last year’s winner, Veronica Ryan, a sculptor featured at the Whitney Biennial, was seen as a return to recognizing artistic merit.
As the Turner Prize winner, Jesse Darling will receive £25,000 (approximately $31,500) in prize money. In a BBC interview last month, Darling humorously mentioned not knowing how they would spend the prize money and playfully suggested using it for retraining. Farquharson, expressing hope that Darling was joking, noted the diverse backgrounds and experiences artists bring to their practice.