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French artist Prouvost scoops UK’s Turner Prize

French artist Laure Prouvost scooped Britain's prestigious Turner Prize for contemporary art on Monday. Prouvost, whose video installation (see below) impressed judges, commended the UK where she plies her trade, saying it allowed her to grow as an artist.

French artist Prouvost scoops UK's Turner Prize
French artist Prouvost shows her surprise and delight at winning Britain's Turner Prize for contemporary art on Monday. Photo: Peter Muhly/AFP

French artist Laure Prouvost on Monday won Britain's Turner prize for contemporary art for her video installation set among a mock-tea party setting, it was announced at a ceremony in Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

"The jury thought her work was outstanding for its complex and courageous combination of images and objects in a deeply atmospheric environment," said an official press release from Tate, the award's partners.

Young Irish actress Saoirse Ronan, who starred in 2007 film Atonement, presented Prouvost, 35, the £25,000 ($40,000, 30,000-euro) award for her work, entitled "Wantee".

"I'm not ready, I didn't expect it at all," said the surprise winner.

"Four incredible artists here with me and the show. I thought it can't be me, I was sure it was not me. So thank you everybody.

"Thank you for adopting me, for having a French one, I feel adopted by the UK," she added.

"I've been here half my life. My boyfriend is half British and my daughter is both. It was really this country that let me grow."

The prize is unique in Britain in the way it sparks a debate among people who are not normally interested in art, with notorious British artists Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin helping to raise its profile.

The four nominees created a typically eclectic collection for this year's prize exhibition in Londonderry, the first time it has been staged outside England.

The work that got many visitors scratching their heads was Tino Sehgal's "This is Exchange", an empty room where guests are offered a small amount of money to engage in conversations about the market economy.

Another entry, David Shrigley's "Life Model", a larger-than-life naked humanoid robot which blinks and periodically urinates, was judged too offensive for some visiting school groups.

The most conventional artist to be nominated was Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, a portrait artist of Ghanaian descent and the first black woman to be shortlisted for the prize.

But it was Prouvost's study on the frustrations of an artist that most impressed the judges.

The visual piece, full of quick cuts and montage, shows art work created by Prouvost's fictional grandfather being used by his wife for household chores, symbolising the lack of control an artist often has over their output.

The video was a response to the artist Kurt Schwitters, and the title "Wantee" comes from Schwitters' girlfriend, because she frequently asked "want tea?"

Judges called the piece "unexpectedly moving", adding that the artist "takes viewers to an inner world, while making reference to the streaming of images in a post-Internet age".

Prouvost was born in Croix-Lille, but moved to London to study at the city's Goldsmiths College and Central St Martins.

She is known for films and installations "characterised by richly layered narrative, language, translation, and surreal interruptions," according to Tate.

The prize was established in 1984 by the Tate gallery in London in honour of 19th-century J. M. W. Turner, who had long wished to set up an award for younger artists.

It is open to any contemporary artist under the age of 50 who is living, working or born in Britain, and is judged on the work they have put on in the last 12 months.

The controversy that surrounded previous entries – notably Emin's "My Bed" in 1999, an unmade bed full of empty vodka bottles, used condoms and soiled underwear – has subsided as contemporary art has become commonplace.

The prize is part of the celebrations for the 2013 UK City of Culture in Londonderry, which is best known for one of the worst episodes of the violence in Northern Ireland.

The exhibition has been staged at the former Ebrington barracks, where British soldiers were based when they fired on civil rights protesters on Bloody Sunday in 1972.

An inquiry in 2010 found that all 14 people killed and many more injured were unarmed and completely innocent.

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ARCHITECTURE

Futuristic Gehry tower opens in World Heritage Arles

Rising high beyond an ancient Roman arena in Arles, a tall, twisted tower created by Frank Gehry shimmers in the sun, the latest futuristic addition to this southern French city known for its World Heritage sites.

Futuristic Gehry tower opens in World Heritage Arles
Gehry's Luma Tower opens in Arles, France. Photo: H I / Pixabay

The tower, which opens to the public on Saturday, is the flagship attraction of a new “creative campus” conceived by the Swiss Luma arts foundation that wants to offer artists a space to create, collaborate and showcase their work.

Gehry, the 92-year-old brain behind Bilbao’s Guggenheim museum and Los Angeles’ Walt Disney Concert Hall, wrapped 11,000 stainless steel panels around his tower above a huge glass round base.

It will house contemporary art exhibitions, a library, and offices, while the Luma Arles campus as a whole will host conferences and live performances.

From a distance, the structure reflects the changing lights of this town that inspired Van Gogh, capturing the whiteness of the limestone Alpilles mountain range nearby which glows a fierce orange when the sun sets.

Mustapha Bouhayati, the head of Luma Arles, says the town is no stranger to
imposing monuments; its ancient Roman arena and theatre have long drawn the
crowds.

The tower is just the latest addition, he says. “We’re building the heritage of tomorrow.”

Luma Arles spreads out over a huge former industrial wasteland.

Maja Hoffmann, a Swiss patron of the arts who created the foundation, says
the site took seven years to build and many more years to conceive.

Maja Hoffmann, founder and president of the Luma Foundation. Photo: Pascal GUYOT / AFP

Aside from the tower, Luma Arles also has exhibition and performance spaces in former industrial buildings, a phosphorescent skatepark created by South Korean artist Koo Jeong A and a sprawling public park conceived by Belgian landscape architect Bas Smets.

‘Arles chose me’

The wealthy great-granddaughter of a founder of Swiss drug giant Roche, Hoffmann has for years been involved in the world of contemporary art, like her grandmother before her.

A documentary producer and arts collector, she owns photos by Annie Leibovitz and Diane Arbus and says she hung out with Jean-Michel Basquiat in New York.

Her foundation’s stated aim is to promote artists and their work, with a special interest in environmental issues, human rights, education and culture.

She refuses to answer a question on how much the project in Arles cost. But as to why she chose the 53,000-strong town, Hoffmann responds: “I did not choose Arles, Arles chose me.”

She moved there as a baby when her father Luc Hoffmann, who co-founded WWF,
created a reserve to preserve the biodiversity of the Camargue, a region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Rhone river delta known for its pink flamingos.

The tower reflects that, with Camargue salt used as mural panels and the
delta’s algae as textile dye.

Hoffmann says she wants her project to attract more visitors in the winter, in a town where nearly a quarter of the population lives under the poverty line.

Some 190 people will be working at the Luma project over the summer, Bouhayati says, adding that Hoffman has created an “ecosystem for creation”.

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