Array Collective wins the Turner Prize 2021

Belfast-based Array Collective has been awarded the coveted Turner Prize 2021, chosen from a shortlist of five artist collectives

Array Collective Turner Prize 2021 Winners Pride 2019. Photography: Laura O’Connor
Array Collective, Pride 2019.
(Image credit: Laura O’Connor)

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

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

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

(Image credit: 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. 

The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum

(Image credit: 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.

Turner Prize 2021 Winner Array Collective, The North is Now (one week after decriminalisation), 2020. Photography: Simon Mills

Array Collective, The North is Now (one week after decriminalisation), 2020.

(Image credit: 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.

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

The Druthaib's Ball by Array Collective, installation view at Turner Prize 2021 exhibition.

(Image credit: David Levene)

Turner Prize 2021 Winner Array Collective

Array Collective, International Women's Day, 2019.

(Image credit: Alessia-Cargnelli)

INFORMATION

The Turner Prize 2021 exhibition will be on show at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry until 12 January 2022. tate.org.uk (opens in new tab)

Harriet Lloyd-Smith is the Arts Editor of Wallpaper*, responsible for the art pages across digital and print, including profiles, exhibition reviews, and contemporary art collaborations. She started at Wallpaper* in 2017 and has written for leading contemporary art publications, auction houses and arts charities, and lectured on review writing and art journalism. When she’s not writing about art, she’s making her own.