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Photograph by Pete Millson, 2 July 2001
Gavin Turk (born 1967) is a British artist, and is considered to be one of the Young British Artists. Turk’s oeuvre deals with issues of authenticity and identity, engaged with modernist and avant-garde debates surrounding the ‘myth’ of the artist and the ‘authorship’ of a work of art.
Life and work
In 1991, tutors at the Royal College of Art refused to present Gavin Turk with his postgraduate degree, a decision based on his graduation exhibition. Titled Cave, it consisted of a whitewashed studio space, containing a blue heritage plaque (of the kind normally found on historic buildings) commemorating his own presence as a sculptor, stating "Gavin Turk worked here, 1989-1991". This bestowed some instant notoriety on Turk, whose work was collected by numerous collectors including Charles Saatchi, who later exhibited Turk's work in the exhibition Sensation (art exhibition), which toured London (Royal Academy of Arts), Berlin (Hamburger Bahnhof) and New York (Brooklyn Museum). Turk attended the private view of the Sensation exhibition at the Royal Academy, dressed as a down-and-out.
He has subsequently produced an extensive body of work, which questions the value and integrity of a hermetic artistic identity.
Turk's wide ranging practice often incorporates iconic images of figures taken from popular culture and art historical sources. A series of detailed life-sized waxworks, incorporating the artists own appearance, features the artist assuming various poses as different characters, including Sid Vicious, Jean-Paul Marat and the Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara. Turk's most famous work in this series, Pop (1993) is a waxwork of Turk as Sid Vicious. The work appropriates the stance of Andy Warhol's screen print of Elvis Presley. In the work, the right hand is pointing a gun, a motif which recurs in other works in the series, such as Bum (1998).
Turk has also appropriated recognisable elements from other artists such as Jacques-Louis David, Yves Klein, Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol, René Magritte, Alighiero Boetti, Robert Morris (artist) and Jasper Johns.
A series of three-dimensional Trompe-l'œil works includes objects cast into bronze, painted to give the appearance of the original object. Possibly his most revered works, these include bronze sculptures of plastic rubbish bags, see "Bag" (2000). Other sculptures include "Nomad" (2002), a bronze cast of a sleeping bag, and Box (2002), which resembles a cardboard box. Turk is perhaps the leading exponent of the painted bronze, and has cast objects from spent matches to worn paving slabs to discarded vehicle exhaust pipes.
A set of what appeared to be classic posters of Che Guevara in a beret, revealed themselves on further scrutiny to be photos of Turk himself. Turk alleged that the management of London's (now defunct) Millennium Dome refused to display his Che Gavara (sic) sculpture, for fear of offending arms-manufacturing Dome sponsor BAe/Marconi (however a correspondent in Art Monthly magazine pointed out that work by the highly political left-wing cartoonist Ralph Steadman was being exhibited in the Dome at the same time).
In December 2009, Turk took part in the "Bricks" exhibition at Area 10 in Peckham in Southeast London. However, the day before the exhibition was to start, organizers noticed that his piece entitled "Revolting Brick" had been stolen and replaced with a fake brick. The fake brick held the words "Thank You Have a Nice Day, Next" and was part of a set of 500 that was given away at the exhibition. "Revolting Brick" was number eight in a series of ten that Turk had created and signed. The artist stated that he "was upset but flattered" at what had happened and that the theft "raises questions about value and worth".
Gavin Turk has exhibited widely internationally. His solo exhibitions include 'L’Amour Fou', David Nolan Gallery, New York, USA (2013), 'Türk', Galerist, Istanbul, Turkey (2012), 'Gavin & Turk', Ben Brown Gallery, London (2013), 'Jack Shit!', Aeroplastics, Brussels, Belgium (2011), 'Before The World Was Round', Galerie Krinzinger, Vienna, Austria (2011) and 'En Face', Galerie Almine Rech, Paris, France (2010), 'The Mirror Stage', Goodman Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa (2009), 'Burnt Out', Kunsthaus Baselland, Basel, Switzerland (2008), 'Piss Off', Galerie Krinzinger, Vienna, Austria (2008) and 'Negotiation of Purpose', GEM Museum for Contemporary Art, The Hague, Netherlands (2007). Additionally, Turk has had solo exhibitions at Sean Kelly Gallery, New York (2005), the New Art Centre Sculpture Park and Gallery, Salisbury, England (2003), the New Art Gallery in Walsall, England (2002), and “The Stuff Show” at South London Gallery (1998).
Recent group exhibitions include 'Street', New Art gallery Walsall (2012), 'Made in Britain: Contemporary Art from the British Council Collection', Sichuan (2012), 'Deja-vu? The Art of Copying from Dürer to You Tube', Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe, Germany (2012), 'Twenty', Aurel Scheibler, Berlin, Germany (2012), 'The Art of Chess', Bendigo Gallery; University of Queensland Art Museum, Australia (2012), 'Identity Theft', Mimmo scognamiglio Arte Contemporanea, Milan, Italy (2010), 'Pop Life: Art in a Material World', Tate Modern, London (2009), 'The Third Dimension, Whitechapel Art Gallery', London (2009), 'DLA Piper Series: This is Sculpture', Tate Liverpool, Liverpool (2009), Turk has also been involved in "teach-in" events such as "The Che Gavara (sic) Story" (2001).
The House of Fairy Tales
In 2007, Turk established The House of Fairy Tales with his partner Deborah Curtis, a children's arts charity based in London, that brings together hundreds of artists, performers, actors, writers and philosophers to deliver theatrical events, guides and exhibitions. The project continues to further community education projects based around, supported by, and advocating art. The House of Fairy Tales tour the country in a mobile gallery horse box which made its festival debut at the 2008 Crunch festival in Hay-on-Wye. In 2009, they appeared at the Glastonbury Festival. In the summer of 2009, The House of Fairy Tales also staged The Long Weekend, a pop-up festival for all ages, hosted by Tate Modern.
In 2001, Turk was awarded the Jack Goldhill Sculpture Prize for his work 'Bag' (2000) by the Royal Academy of Arts, London, who in 2007 also awarded him the Charles Wollaston award for his work 'Dumb Candle' (2007), a carving of a candle made from the top of an old broom handle.
Notes and references
- Tate Modern. (2009). 'Pop Life: Art in a Material World' Retrieved 14 August 2012.
- "Photography - Victoria and Albert Museum". Vam.ac.uk. 2014-01-18. Retrieved 2014-08-26.
- Gammell, Caroline (8 December 2009). "Gavin Turk brick worth £3,000 is stolen and replaced by 40 pence equivalent". The Daily Telegraph.
- Goodman Gallery artist's page: 'Gavin Turk, solo exhibition: The Mirror Stage'. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
- Preece, R. J. (2005) 'Gavin Turk interview'. artdesigncafe. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
- Jones, Jonathan. (22 January 2001). 'Glad to be Che', The Guardian. Retrieved 16 January 2010.
- "Celebrities' open letter to Scotland – full text and list of signatories | Politics". theguardian.com. 2014-08-07. Retrieved 2014-08-26.
- 'The House of Fairy Tales website'. Retrieved 16 January 2010.
- "Weldon and Hensher head to Bath Spa". The Bookseller. Retrieved 9 November 2012.
- The Official Site for Gavin Turk
- The Official Site for The House of Fairy Tales
- Clippings from an interview by David Barrett
- Gavin Turk at Sculpture.org.uk
- BAe/Marconi and the Millennium Dome
- Video of panel debate with Gavin Turk
- Gavin Turk talks to www.theartnewspaper.tv about Duck Rabbit at Frieze 2009
- Gavin Turk on BBC4, discussing the impact of Charles Saatchi on the modern art world
- Gavin Turk discussing The House of Fairy Tales with the Guardian newspaper
- Gavin Turk Transit Disaster at Paul Stolper Gallery, London 2012