Assemble and The Turner Prize: Where Architecture Meets Art by Issey Scott

Making the link between contemporary art and architecture can sometimes be a tenuous one, and intriguingly this is very much a positive trait, as this further diversifies the realm of contemporary art and its possibilities. Now a broader field than it has ever been with increasing interdisciplinary, art is becoming something of an ‘expanding field’, as Rosalind Krauss might say, especially as we see the somewhat controversial decision of architecture ensemble Assemble winning the 2015 Turner Prize.

 With varied social and material foundations, namely installation art and site-specific works, we see the essence of community often taking a dominant position in contemporary art, as practices involving people and their stories more commonplace, and divergent in its forms (see the likes of ‘Peckham Promenade‘ at Peckham Platform and ‘One Degree of Change’ at Bank of America). In the same way that there is an inevitable element of social issues in architectural practice, the ways in which art is presented, commissioned and created is in line with not only the art market and the economy but also wider society.

 Assemble’s winning project, including a community collaboration in the Granby Four Streets in Liverpool, highlights the collective’s ethos of working with local residents and users of the space. As aforementioned, being nominated for then winning the Turner Prize was widely criticised, if not challenged, due to Assemble’s self-defined cross-disciplinary work through art, design and architecture. While this unsettled many traditionalists, others continue to praise the decision and welcome the domain of architecture as a valid form of contemporary art. In order for greater accessibility and inclusion beyond the art world, it could easily be argued that the work of Assemble marks a new chapter in a more meaningful mainstream narrative in contemporary art.

Issey Scott
Anise Gallery