Mitchell Library piece nominated for Turner Prize

Kerbel's performance piece was commissioned by Glasgow's Common Guild arts organisation for the library's Jeffrey Room. Picture: John Devlin
Kerbel's performance piece was commissioned by Glasgow's Common Guild arts organisation for the library's Jeffrey Room. Picture: John Devlin
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AN OPERATIC work commissioned for Glasgow’s historic Mitchell Library will be in the running for Britain’s biggest visual art prize when it comes to the city this year.

Canadian artist Janice Kerbel has been shortlisted for the Turner Prize for her work, with nine songs performed by six singers. It was said to be inspired by the history of operatic librettos, the strategies of physical comedy and the “futile violence” of animated cartoons.

An adventure playground commissioned for Glasgow’s hosting of the Commonwealth Games and designed with the help of children helped win a nomination for a collective of young artists and architects.

However Scottish artists missed out completely on the shortlist for this year’s prize, despite an incredible run of nominees in recent years, with all four nominees based in London. Glasgow, which has boasted a host of contenders and winners over the last two decades, will host the Turner Prize show for the first time under organiser Tate Britain’s policy of taking it on the road every other year.

This time last year three Glasgow School of Art graduates – Duncan Campbell, Ciara Phillips and Tris Vonna-Michell – all made the shortlist, with Dublin-born Campbell going on to win the £25,000 prize. The city had boasted six previous winners.

It is hoped more than 50,000 art lovers will flock to the Tramway arts centre in Pollokshields between October and January for the showcase of work by the contenders for the prize, which is open to artists under 50. Tate Britain director Penelope Curtis, chair of the prize panel, said it was “ironic” and “perhaps strange” that Glasgow artists had missed out on any nominations this year, but insisted the city was still strongly represented on the shortlist.

Kerbel’s performance piece, commissioned by Glasgow’s Common Guild arts organisation for the library’s Jeffrey Room, is said to chronicle a cycle of catastrophic events endured by “Doug”, a fictional character the artist has created. She describes him as “an innocent fool and part hapless fall guy”.

London arts collective Assemble, whose members are all under 30, was inspired by “post-war junk playgrounds” to design the new facility for Dalmarnock, near the Emirates Arena. The area previously had no parks, playgrounds or facilities for children, more than half of whom live below the poverty line.

The 18-strong group were also nominated for their work to help transform a clutch of derelict terraced houses in Granby Four Streets, in Liverpool, which were threatened with demolition. A group of residents in the Toxteth estate have reclaimed and replanted their streets, painted empty houses, organised a monthly market and formed their own land trust.

German-born Nicole Wermers’ exhibition Infrastruckur, which featured an installation of designer chairs with fur coats draped over them, tackled themes of class, consumption, lifestyle and control. Bonnie Camplin’s “study room,” entitled The Military Industrial Complex, tackled physics, philosophy, psychology, witchcraft, quantum theory and warfare theories in her piece on “consensus reality”.

Tramway director Sarah Munro said: “We’re obviously incredibly excited that the Turner Prize is coming to Glasgow and Scotland for the first time.

“It’s a huge recognition of the work we do year-round in commissioning and presenting the very best of contemporary art and the central role we’ve played over our 25 years. It’s also recognition of the significant number of Glasgow-based artists who have previously been been on the shortlist or won the prize.”

• The 2015 Turner Prize exhibition opens at the Tramway on 1 October.