First major UK prize for sculpture awarded to Helen Marten

Artist Helen Marten was crowned winner of Britain’s first major prize for sculpture at an award dinner in Wakefield last night for an entry featuring seven of her recent works.

The inaugural Hepworth Prize for Sculpture was created to celebrate the 5th anniversary of The Hepworth Wakefield gallery and ‘aims to demystify contemporary sculpture’. Valued at £30,000, it is awarded to a British or UK-based artist of any age at any stage of his or her career who has made a significant contribution to the development of contemporary sculpture.

The prize is named in honour of one Britain’s greatest sculptors, Barbara Hepworth, who was born and raised in Wakefield.

The youngest of the four artists shortlisted for the prize, Marten was born in Macclesfield in 1985 and studied at the Ruskin School of Fine Art in Oxford and Central Saint Martins in London. Her artworks incorporate ready-made materials and everyday objects including air fresheners, masonry nails, polystyrene, feathers, gum wrappers and even Nokia mobile phones.

Marten has commented that she has “difficulty putting a categorical or binary label” on her art. Chair of the judging panel for the Hepworth Prize and Director of The Hepworth Wakefield, Simon Wallis, said Marten’s “refined craft and intellectual precision address our relationship to objects and materials in a digital age”.

Marten faced tough competition from the three remaining artists shortlisted for the top prize, Phyllida Barlow, Steven Claydon and David Medall. She has pledged to share the award money with her fellow nominees as she feels “the hierarchical position of art prizes today is to a certain extent flawed”. A nominee of this year’s Turner Prize for contemporary British art Marten also intends to share the £25,000 award if she is announced as the winner on 5 December.

The context of the world’s political landscape is changing so drastically… amidst that, the art world has a responsibility to uphold an umbrella of egalitarianism and democracy and openness” she told the BBC.

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