The Array Collective’s recreation of a pub is a cheerful call for diversity in Northern Ireland. But it’s like a theatre set without a play – and has only a thin smear of artistic meaning
The verdict is in for the most virtuous Turner prize ever. Salmon farming may be ecologically sleazy, community fellowship on the streets of Cardiff a good thing, sound systems a radical subculture, and neurodiversity in need of understanding – but the most important good cause of all is anti-sectarian pro-diversity activism in Northern Ireland. The judges have recognised warm and fluffy protest artists Array for their “hopeful and dynamic artwork”. It’s hard to see this as a purely artistic victory. By only shortlisting collectives with strong social messages, this year’s prize has put aesthetic achievement pretty low on its list of “values”.
Admittedly, Array did create one of the most artistic moments in this year’s Turner. Their cosy, ramshackle installation of an alternative pub with stuffed dummies, LGBTQ+ posters and a corner bar suggests a benign version of American artist Ed Kienholz’s classic sculpture The Beanery – except he created his copy of a Los Angeles bar 56 years ago.