GLASGOW–Architectural collective Assemble has won 2015 Turner Prize for contemporary visual art, the British competition’s organizers said Monday. The London-based group has blurred traditional boundaries between art and design with its redevelopment plans for 10 Victorian houses in the run-down Toxteth district of Liverpool, northwest England. “I think it’s safe to say this nomination was a surprise to all of us, and the last six months has been a kind of super surreal experience,” said Assemble member Joseph Halligan at the awards ceremony in the Scottish city of Glasgow. “It’s allowed us this amazing opportunity to start something, Granby Workshop, which we really hope will live on for a very, very, very long time. We’re really really grateful. Thank you.” Their work focused on the Granby Four Streets cluster of houses in Toxteth, which fell into disrepair after tensions between the black community and police erupted into riots in 1981. Assemble worked with local residents to redevelop the area and have set up a workshop there so that young people can learn to make fittings and fixtures, including chimneys and door handles. Never before have a group so large been nominated — Assemble has 18 founder members, most aged in their 20s.
The group started as friends at the prestigious University of Cambridge. Their win is even more surprising given their work is rooted in architecture, not a traditional artistic category. Other finalists included London-based German artist Nicole Wermers, with her room of modern chairs with fur coats sewn onto them, and a supernatural study center by British artist Bonnie Camplin. Her work consisted of a room containing five televisions with headphones, where visitors can listen to people explaining supernatural events they claim to have experienced. The fourth finalist featured the enigmatic work of 45-year-old Canadian artist Janice Kerbel. The musical composition, “DOUG,” is performed by six opera singers dressed in black who sing songs recounting a series of disasters that happened to a person named Doug. The £25,000 (US$37,490) contemporary art prize, which is named after painter William Turner, has been awarded annually since 1984 to an artist aged under 50 who is living in, or was born in, Britain. The award is closely followed as a marker for art world trends, but is also frequently mocked by critics of the contemporary art scene. Previous winning works have included a room in which lights are turned on and off intermittently, and Damien Hirst’s bisected cow and calf preserved in formaldehyde. An unmade bed strewn with rubbish by artist Tracey Emin was a runner up in 1999.