Having appeared earlier this year in the Whitney Biennial, artist Veronica Ryan has now added another accolade to her portfolio: the biggest art award in the U.K.
Ryan is the 2022 winner of the Turner Prize, which comes with £25,000 ($30,500). Each of the other shortlisted artists—Heather Phillipson, Ingrid Pollard, and Sin Wai Kin—will take home £10,000 ($12,200). All of these artists’ works are currently on view in an exhibition at Tate Liverpool.
This is the first year since 2018 that a single person was crowned the winner of the Turner Prize, an award that regularly generates controversy within the U.K. and beyond. In 2019, all four nominees shared the victory; in 2020, grants were offered in place of the award; and in 2021, Array Collective became the first artist’s group to receive the prize.
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In her sculptures, Ryan often plays with scale, blowing up commonplace objects like seeds or fruit, until they are far larger than they would normally be. Despite their unusual size, Ryan’s renditions of them are exactingly detailed and oddly realistic.
Born in Montserrat and based between London and New York, Ryan has used her work to mull the way people and ideas travel and how trauma is inherited. In the Whitney Biennial catalogue, she labeled memory “a kind of stained history,” and has invoked that in her work by way of unconventional materials like tea. While the general themes of her work can seem straightforward, the objects that she produces resist easy reading.
In 2021, Ryan was commissioned to create a monument in London to the Windrush Generation. The resulting work was monumental versions of a soursop, a breadfruit, and a custard apple, fruits that can be found in the Caribbean.
The Turner Prize jury praised Ryan for the “noticeable shift in her use of space, colour and scale both in gallery and civic spaces.”
Ryan is the second Black woman ever to win the award in its 38-year history, after Lubaina Himid, who received the Turner Prize in 2017. Himid, as it happens, included Ryan’s work in the key exhibition “Black Women Time Now,” which Himid organized in 1983.