Once referred to as the ‘Sid Vicious of Contemporary Art’, British artist Gavin Turk (b. 1967, Guildford) has pioneered many forms of contemporary British sculpture that are now taken for granted, including the painted bronze, the waxwork, the recycled art-historical icon and the use of rubbish in art.
Turk attended Chelsea School of Art in 1986, in his words to “learn how to think and look at art”, concluding that in the end he actually developed a more “sophisticated misunderstanding of art”. He was then accepted into the Royal College of Art in 1989, but in 1991 was refused his degree on the basis of his final show, ‘Cave’. The piece consisted of a whitewashed studio space with a single blue heritage plaque on the wall dedicated to himself, which read ‘GAVIN TURK Sculptor worked here 1989 – 1991’.
Whilst the Royal College refused to grant him his MA, he was soon spotted by Charles Saatchi and gained instant notoriety, bringing him quickly to the forefront of the contemporary art scene.
Turk’s thesis at the Royal College set the tone of his work thereafter; the artist remains fascinated with the cult of personality, the ‘myth’ of the artist, and concerns around authorship. In the 1990s, Turk gained prominence as part of the generation known as the Young British Artists, alongside Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin and was included in Charles Saatchi’s hugely influential and landmark exhibition ‘Sensation’ at the RA in 1997.
Turk’s work has been exhibited by many reputable museums and galleries across the world. Solo shows have been at Maruani Mercier (Brussels), Galerie Krinzinger (Wien), Newport Street Gallery (London), Paul Stolper Gallery (London), White Cube (London), Tate (London) and Goodman Gallery (Cape Town) to name but a few.
The artist has also featured in a selection of significant group exhibitions across the world, including ‘POP LIFE’ at Tate Modern (London), the Venice Biennale in 2009, the International Istanbul Biennial in 1999, Hayward Gallery (London), Somerset House (London), Turner Contemporary (Margate), Whitworth Art Gallery (Manchester), The Holbourne Museum (Bath), Weserburg Museum of Modern Art (Bremen), City Gallery (Prague), Reykjavik Art Museum (Reykjavik), and Phoenix Art Museum (Arizona).
The artist’s work is held in the collections of Tate Gallery (London), the Museum of Modern Art (New York), the Caldic Collection (Rotterdam), and with private collectors such as Damien Hirst.
In 2001 Turk was awarded the Jack Goldhill Sculpture Prize, and in 2007 the Charles Wollaston Award, both by the Royal Academy of Arts. In 2010 Turk received an Honorary Doctorate in Arts from the University of East London. In 2013 Prestel published Turk’s first major monograph, showcasing more than two decades of his work and in 2014 Trolley Books published ‘This Is Not A Book About Gavin Turk’ which playfully explores themes associated with the artist’s work via thirty notable contributors.
Turk has been commissioned to make several public sculptures including L'Âge d'Or, a painted bronze sited on the south corner of the Press Centre building in the Olympic Park, and Nail, a 12-meter sculpture at One New Change, next to St Paul’s cathedral, London, England.
The artist lives and works in London.