Is the London Art Scene so far up its own backside as it appears to be?! First we had the Turner Prize, so-called contemporary art depicting, well, anything BUT art in some cases! Now the National Portrait Gallery is getting in on the act with a double whammy on the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize! Is there no such thing as bad publicity …??
First we have the controversies associated with the Turner Prize held at The Tate Gallery – too many of them to list but Damien Hirst’s ‘Mother and Child, Divided’, a sculpture comprising a bisected cow and calf, stands out. 'How anyone can consider a stuffed cow as art must lie even beyond the most illiterate mind ' wrote one member of the public calling it a ‘waste of space’, while another wrote 'My sixteen-year-old daughter was at The Tate as part of her A-Level Art course, and having seen this particular exhibit has suffered nightmares, poor sleeping and cannot eat beef .’ Art indeed!!
The 2010 prize has courted more controversy as it’s been awarded to an artist, Susan Phillipsz, who works in sound using her own voice to create “uniquely evocative sound installations that play upon and extend the poetics of specific, often out of the way spaces” (say what!) . Her winning piece ‘Lowlands’ consists of three speakers in an empty room with Phillpsz singing three versions of a 16th Century Scottish lament called ‘Lowlands Away’. Phillpsz trained as a sculptor and says her work explores the: “psychological effects of song...defining the space.” Yeah – right!
So then we have the recent controversies surrounding the award of the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize by the National Portrait Gallery. I say controversies – plural.
First there were the winning photographs themselves. If you’re in the photographic world and read any of the magazines, blogs etc. I doubt you will have missed the announcement.
The winning photograph ‘Huntress with Buck’ by David Chancellor was, well, pretty ordinary really – just the sort of thing you’d snap out on a family holiday. Not, in my humble opinion, worthy of a local camera club prize, let alone a national competition.
Then there was the second prize. Awarding this to Panayiotis Lamprou for his ‘Portrait of my British Wife’ was nothing short of sensationalist publicity seeking, and it’s certainly put the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize on the map! It is, quite frankly, a vulgar, ugly photograph of Mrs Lamprou reclined, legs wide open and commando, if you get my meaning, not even worthy of a top shelf publication (BTW: it’s the photo that’s ugly, not the subject Mrs Lamprou). The sort of thing you might have snapped as a joke, and promptly got slapped for and told to delete it!
Anyway, while the National Portrait Gallery might have been deliberately trying to get column inches to publicise itself and the prize, it now finds itself with some unwelcome publicity as it turns out that the fourth prize winner, Abbie Trayler-Smith, with her picture ‘Untitled 2’, has fathered a child with one of the judges!! (As an aside, not sure if it’s actually called ‘Untitled 2’ or if it’s just an ‘Untitled’ picture! If the latter they could have done better – IMG-7228 for example!!)
Harry Borden, an award-winning portrait photographer himself, was one of the six judges and apparently claims he did not know that Trayler-Smith had entered the competition, and since the competition is judged anonymously without the names attached he did not violate any rules. Does he really expect us to believe that, given his status, the subject did not come up once during pillow-talk?! And that he doesn't see or comment on her photos?! Come on!
So, the only conclusion I can draw from this is, sod the art - it’s the publicity that counts! So I'm off to find something sensationalist with which I can enter and win loads of competitions!