Herbert Art Gallery, Coventry; Royal Academy, London
Social activism not art is the benchmark of a collective-juggling Turner prize. And Yinka Shonibare begins to shake things up at art’s annual pro-am fixture
First! That is the exultant boast for this year’s Turner prize – the first shortlist composed entirely of collectives. The first work conceived outside the gallery system. The first time the show has been held in the Midlands, and represents every nation of the UK; certainly the first array of “pocket utopias” and “community initiatives”.
Five collectives are involved, but anyone half alert can deduce a sixth – none other than the jury itself. For its members clearly agreed upon a fundamental principle to select only groups intent on the greater social good, as opposed to artists working for art’s sake (or, God forbid, by themselves). In a pandemic year, with so few contemporary exhibitions and so much national suffering, this might seem a moral imperative, but the question is whose welfare it serves.