Turner Prize 2023 awarded to queer artist Jesse Darling

Queer artist Jesse Darling has won the Turner Prize 2023.

British queer artist Jesse Darling has made waves within the art world after landing the prestigious Turner Prize 2023 for his “delirious” art installation.

The Turner Prize – associated with household names such as Damien Hirst and Tracy Enim – held its annual award ceremony on Tuesday (5 December) in Towner Eastbourne. The £25,000 cheque was presented by rapper Tinie Tempah to Oxford-born artist Darling for his politically-charged exhibition about the state of Britain.

The eye-catching exhibition made use of tattered Union Jacks, hazard tape, discarded office files, crowd barriers and barbed wire to make a provocative statement on hostile policies in the UK. Alongside wider themes on British identity and the impact of Brexit and austerity over the past decade.

It was described by the Turner Prize judges as “familiar yet delirious world” that “unsettles perceived notions of labour, class, Britishness and power”.

During their prize-winning speech, 41-year-old Darling uplifted working class voices within the visual art world while after hitting out at Margaret Thatcher’s suppression of art in classrooms.

Jesse Darling's exhibition presented at the Turner Prize ceremony
Jesse Darling’s exhibition presented at the Turner Prize ceremony. (Getty)

“[Thatcher] sort of paved the way for the greatest trick that the Tories ever pulled,” Darling said, “which was to convince the working people of Britain that study, self-expression, and what the broadsheet supplements describe as culture, is only for particular kinds of people from particular socioeconomic backgrounds.

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“And I just want to say don’t buy in, I’m talking to the public, I’m talking to the British public, don’t buy in, it’s for everyone.”

Darling, who now lives in Berlin, then pulled out a Palestinian flag and waved it to the room as a nod to the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict.

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In an interview with the BBC, Darling spoke about their approach to critiquing Britain in their work.

“You have to love something to be able to critique it,” he said. “I was born in this country and I’m looking at what’s going on here. I wanted to make a work that reflected that, and I wanted to make work about Britain for the British public.

“Whether they like it or don’t like it, it was a great honour and privilege to be able to do something so public for the British public.”

The artist triumphed over fellow nominees Rory Pilgrim, Barbara Walker and Ghislaine Leung.

Ceramic artist Grayson Perry, known for cross-dressing, previously won the Turner Prize in 2003. In an interview with the Guardian in 2014, Perry reflected on their complicated relationship with their identity after being asked if they “grow bored” of wearing dresses.

“I’m not bored with transvestism. That would be silly – I’m a transvestite. The dress is only one element of the psycho-sexual process. Just because you don’t have a dress on doesn’t stop you being a tr***y, in the same way as, if you’re not in bed with a man, it doesn’t stop you being gay,” he said at the time.

While in 2022, drag performer and Canadian artist Sin Wai Kin broke ground as the first out non-binary artist to be nominated for the prize.

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