The Turnip Prize

Art is subjective.

Each unique piece will evoke different emotions from different people – some may love, some may hate. This is especially true for abstract pieces of modern art entrenched in complex symbolism, breaking the mould of what many would consider to be truly ‘art’.

Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder at the end of the day…

But there are some pieces of work that maybe get so caught up in the layers of symbolism that they err awfully close to being considered ‘low-effort’ or just bad…

But does that mean that they shouldn’t be celebrated…?

The Turnip Prize

The Turnip Prize is a spoof of the Tate Gallery’s Turner Prize that seeks to satirise the award by instead rewarding deliberately bad modern art. The prize originally started as a bit of a joke in the year 1999 – but has since gained massive media attention and several spin-off prizes.

The Turnip Prize celebrates and credits entries that have awful puns as titles, displaying a lack of effort, or for simply being dreadful. Conversely to other award ceremonies, any entries into the competition that are deemed to be made with too much effort or simply aren’t bad enough are immediately disqualified.

The first prize award is a turnip nailed into a block of wood – which makes an awful lot of sense given the name of the award. The award ceremony is usually held at The New Inn in Wedmore, Somerset.

The Beginning of The Turnip Prize

The prize itself was the brainchild of regulars and management staff of The George Hotel in Wedmore, Somerset. This followed on from the shortlisting of Tracey Emin’s exhibition ‘My Bed’ for the Turner Prize.

The owner and organiser Trever Prideaux announced the awards in a light-hearted fashion –

“The Turnip Prize is a crap art competition … You can enter anything you like, but it must be rubbish.”

Competitors have since submitted entries of insanely ridiculous objects posing as modern art, for the most part these submissions are made from bits of rubbish stuck together and titled with a spoof or a pun.

The media coverage came soon after the first prizegiving – in May of 2000 all of the nominees appeared on BBC TV, and were featured by national and international media. Since then, there have been some bizarre events associated with the prizes;

  • The ‘Monster Raving Loony Party’ tried to hijack the 2002 competition
  • The 2003 winner was a raw chicken stuffed with leaves
  • A publicity stunt involving a Banksy knock-off artwork dubbed ‘By the Banksea’
  • A previous prize has featured several times on the BBC’s show – ‘Have I Got News For You’

The Most Recent Prize Winners

Winner of 2018 – Stroke Me (lavatory attendant) – Collywobbles (a plastic collie dog on a jelly)

Claire Brown – Stock Pile (a pile of stock cubes)

C Tinder – Hot Date (a chilli pepper and a date)

Mrs Heinz – Trump Tower (two tins of baked beans stacked on top of one another)

Ray Cycle – Plastic Waste (a plastic belt)

Annabel Stone – Hollywood (a piece of holly and a piece of wood)

Winner of 2019 – Fanny Scorcher (hairdresser) – Bush Fire Down Under (a pair of knickers with a burnt hole in the front)

Canna B. Bothered – A Complete Waste of Thyme (Thyme discarded from its jar)

Will Ted Gutful – Lettuce Leaf or Romaine (a leaf of Romaine Lettuce)

Henry Yolking – Poached Eggs (an empty egg box)

David Ehmann – The Leaves and the Remains (a pile of leaves and bones)

Asif – Thomas Cooked (Thomas the Tank Engine in a saucepan)

Winner of 2020 – Herewe Goagain (gardening girl) – Lockdown (a padlock on top of a pile of duck down feathers)

Robin Deadrest – A Brush with Death (a Robin laid on its back next to a paintbrush)

Pete Lamb – Back to the Fuchsia (a baby doll with its back to a Fuchsia plant)

Jolly Roger – Fur Load (a large bundle of fur)

The Very Reverent Canon Ball – Rock on Tommy (a rock on top of a tomato)

Doug Tunn – Shut the Duck Up (a duck with tape over its beak)

Winner of 2021 – Ching Ching Pi Pi Ee (architect) – Panda Mick (a panda called Mick)

Concerned – Glowball Warming (a glow ball on top of a hot water bottle)

Raspberry Buttocks – Green Energy (a green battery)

U Naughty Royal – Prints Andrew (a mannequin with two handprints strategically placed on it)

Annual Entries of The Turnip Prizes

You’d be forgiven for thinking this is a small, local event with only a few entries – but quite the opposite is true. Entries come in droves from far and wide across the country and across the globe.

  • 2013 – 69 entries, which included entries from Ireland, Italy, Paris, and the U.S
  • 2014 – 69 entries, which included entries from Canada, USA, Germany, and Italy
  • 2015 – 69 entries, which included entries from France, Czech Republic, Norway, and Macedonia
  • 2016 – 99 entries, which included entries from Brisbane, Australia, Scotland, Northern Ireland
  • 2017 – 100 entries, which included entries from Guernsey and Germany
  • 2018 – 90 entries, which included entries from Australia (arrived broken in 69 pieces) and Antigua
  • 2019 – 107 entries, which included entries from Australia, Guernsey and Belgium.
  • 2020 – 120 entries, which included entries from Kansas, Lockerbie and Downpatrick.
  • 2021 – 96 entries, which included entries from Geneva and Rome

Spin-off Success

As The Turnip Prize has now reached such heady levels of success, there have been several other ‘knock-off’ competitions being held around the world. These independent prize ceremonies still operate around the concept of –

‘We know it’s rubbish, but is it art?’

The competitors generally do still submit their efforts in the form of nonsensical rubbish titled with puns, with much of the marks awarded for amusement and lack of effort. Similarly to the original Turnip Prizes many competitors are disqualified simply for trying too hard.

Some examples of other spin-off attempts at a larger more notable scale would be The Sun “newspaper” featuring its own Turnip Prize in 2001 and The Edinburgh College of Art opening their own award encouraging students to carve something from the vegetable.