The Video artist Elizabeth Price was presented the winner of Britain’s most coveted art award this evening at a ceremony at Tate Britain. She was given the cheque for £25,000 by actor Jude Law, for her video installation, The Woolworths Choir of 1979, 2012. Price a Yorkshire born artist, utilises archival text, images and music to produce works uncovering the human relationship to objects and consumer culture.
Each year this prestigious prize is awarded to a British artist under the age of 50 who is judged to have put on the best exhibition of the last 12 months. Other nominees this year were performance artist Spartacus Chetwynd, video artist Luke Fowler and Paul Noble, a sculptor and draftsman.
The Woolworths Choir of 1979, 2012 – Elizabeth Price’s winning entry is an empowering audio visual experience. ‘The rhythmic finger clicks and ritualistic hand-claps run through her winning work’. The sonorous effect is to unify an eclectic mix of archive footage and typed comment that plays on multiple meanings of the word ‘Choir’. It is a moving, haunting and disturbing installation that – in my opinion – is a worthy winner of this prestigious prize.Price is the least well known of the four artists and admitted she was “surprised” to win.During her acceptance speech she praised her comprehensive school education, saying her career would be “unimaginable” without public support for the arts. Thanking the Tate, she also commended the other shortlisted artists for their “respect, camaraderie and a sense of the absurd”.
Price exhibited at the Baltic Gallery in Gateshead earlier this year, she said, I “draws upon historical film, photographic archives and collections of artefacts to generate fantasy episodes”. At the exhibition of the nominees’ works at Tate Britain, Price combined old music, photographs, video footage and text to depict a tragic fire at a branch of Woolworth’s in Manchester in 1979, in which 10 people died.
Elizabeth Price doesn’t analyse death in the moment, we have all already done that, we also all know the judges have, which makes us all close as a community. Price brings an underlying spirituality to her work in ‘ascension’, through the transmission of communication and education of the architecture of the ‘choir’, through the catastrophe of accidental fire, that led to the death of 10 persons and then through the chorus motioning upward movement. Through a rising in to something else something abstract, that makes a lighter experience in understanding and encourages trust, community and en-lightened living.
“When I started making the work, I didn’t know it would end up being about that subject. I believe art should be dealing with these subjects and I think art is a way to remember them,” said Price.
Previous recipients of the prize, first awarded in 1984, include: 1984 Malcolm Morley; 1985 Howard Hodgkin; 1986 Gilbert & George; 1987 Richard Deacon; 1988 Tony Cragg; 1989 Richard Long; 1990 (Prize suspended); 1991 Anish Kapoor; 1992 Grenville Davey; 1993 Rachel Whiteread; 1994 Antony Gormley; 1995 Damien Hirst; 1996 Douglas Gordon; 1997 Gillian Wearing; 1998 Chris Ofili; 1999 Steve McQueen; 2000 Wolfgang Tillmans; 2001 Martin Creed; 2002 Keith Tyson; 2003 Grayson Perry; 2004 Jeremy Deller; 2005 Simon Starling; 2006 Tomma Abts; 2007 Mark Wallinger; 2008 Mark Leckey; 2009 Richard Wright; 2010 Susan Philipsz ; 2011 Martin Boyce.