Northern Ireland’s Array Collective has been crowned winner of the Turner Prize 2021 in a ceremony held at Coventry Cathedral. 

In 2019, the Turner Prize made headlines after all four nominees were awarded the top prize, at their collective request. This year’s format was also unprecedented; for the first time in the award’s history, the shortlist was a full house of artist collectives

 David Levene 
The Druthaib’s Ball, by Array Collective, installation view at Turner Prize 2021 exhibition. Photography: David Levene 

Their common thread is art for social change, but each collective is dispersed in theme, and diverse in approach. Array was chosen from a shortlist of five collectives, which also included Black Obsidian Sound System, Cooking Sections, Gentle/Radical, and Project Art Works. As the winner, Array Collective will be awarded £25,000, while £10,000 will be given to each shortlisted collective. 

Each nominee was selected for their close and consistent work with communities across the UK. The collaborative practices selected also reflect the solidarity demonstrated in response to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. 

An exhibition of the collectives’ work is currently being held at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry (until 12 January 2022), forming part of the UK City of Culture 2021 celebrations. 

Photography: David Levene

Belfast-based Array Collective is known for work that tackles issues around language, gender and reproductive rights, as well the politics and identity of Northern Ireland, often conveyed through collaborative performances, protests, exhibitions and events. 

For its Turner Prize show, Array Collective created The Druthaib’s Ball a fantasy síbín (‘a pub without permission’). The work has been realised twice. In Belfast, it was a wake for the centenary of Ireland’s partition, in the Black Box (grassroots venue). Quasi-mythological druids were in attendance, along with a community of costumed artists and activists. 

Array Collective’s Herbert exhibition hosts a film created from the Belfast event, and a TV showing Northern Ireland Screen’s Digital Film Archive. A large canopy styled from banners provides a floating roof. Visitors can approach the síbín through a circle of flag poles that references ancient Irish ceremonial sites, and is illuminated by a dusk-to-dawn light.

 Simon Mills
Array Collective, The North is Now (one week after decriminalisation), 2020. Photography: Simon Mills

The collective has staged a contradictory world that simultaneously inhabits trauma, black humour and angst. It is a place to look beyond sectarian divides that have overwhelmed Northern Ireland’s collective memory for the last century. In a more subtle intervention, Array has also made its mark in the Herbert’s collections, inserting an etching of The Druthaib’s Ball into Gallery 2 of the museum.

Array Collective comprises Sighle Bhreathnach-Cashell, Sinead Bhreathnach-Cashell, Jane Butler, Emma Campbell, Alessia Cargnelli, Mitch Conlon, Clodagh Lavelle, Grace McMurray, Stephen Millar, Laura O’Connor, and Thomas Wells.

The Turner Prize 2021 jury consisted of Aaron Cezar, director, Delfina Foundation; Kim McAleese, programme director, Grand Union; Russell Tovey, actor; and Zoé Whitley, director, Chisenhale Gallery. §

 David Levene
The Druthaib’s Ball by Array Collective, installation view at Turner Prize 2021 exhibition. Photography: David Levene
Turner Prize 2021 Winner Array Collective
Array Collective, International Women’s Day, 2019. Photography: Alessia-Cargnelli