The first Turner Prize winner, the painter Malcolm Morley, has died at age 86. He is notably one of the first Pop artists to make the jump into Photorealism. Born in London he began painting while he was serving a prison sentence for breaking and entering.
Gallerist Xavier Hufkens described him as “one of the seminal figures of international contemporary art”
Morley moved to New York in 1958 a year after leaving the Royal College, making his name with works based on subjects of ocean liners with images taken from travel brochures. He often used a grid to transfer photographics image from a variety of sources (travel brochures, calendars, old paintings) to canvas as accurately as possible, and became one of the most noted photorealists.
In the 1970s, Morley’s work began to be more expressionist, and he began to incorporate collage into his work. Many of his paintings from the mid-70s, such as Train Wreck (1975), depict “catastrophes”. Later in the decade, he began to use his own earlier drawings and watercolours.
The inaugural winner of the Turner Prize, the UK’s leading contemporary art award, was controversial beating Gilbert and George, Howard Hodgkin, Richard Deacon and Richard Long.
Winning the £10k prize Morley was said to have described the notion of pitting artists against each other as a “blood sport”.
Many thought the prize should have gone to someone who had been based in the UK not New York.
His retrospective at the Whitechapel Gallery in London staged the previous year, gave rise to the nomination which the Tate Gallery’s modern art curator Richard Francis said at the time was “enormously influential”.
Morley died in Bellport, New York, according to his gallerist Xavier Hufkens.
Malcolm Morley (June 7, 1931 – June 2, 2018)