Artist biography

British sculptor and conceptual artist. For his 1991 MFA show at the Royal College of Art in London, he showed a single work: a blue ceramic English Heritage plaque affixed to the wall of an otherwise empty studio and bearing the text ‘Borough of Kensington Gavin Turk Sculptor Worked Here 1989–91'. For this iconoclastic gesture he was denied his degree. Beginning his career paradoxically with his own demise and posthumous recognition set the tone for his subsequent work, which dealt with the cult of personality and the construction of artistic myth. A key aspect of this is his questioning of originality and artistic tradition.

Turk uses his signature as a recurrent motif through which to explore the way an artist's mark can embody aesthetic and commercial value. The complicated manner in which myths of celebrity are constructed was explored in Pop (wax-work figure in a wood, glass and brass vitrine 2.79×1.15×1.15 m, London, Saatchi Gal.; see 1997 exh. cat., p. 175), a life-size self-portrait in which he adopts the identity of Sid Vicious singing ‘My Way' in the pose of Elvis Presley as depicted by Andy Warhol. By mimicking the kind of waxwork format in which such a scene would be popularly presented, Turk merges the boundaries of two distinct personality cults – his own and that of the murdered revolutionary – suggesting the elements of myth-making common to both.

S. Bill and A. Wilson: Gavin Turk: Collected Works 1989–93 (London, 1994)
Sensation (exh. cat., London, RA, 1997)
J. Compston and A. Farquharson: Gavin Turk: Collected Works 1994–98 (London, 1998)

10 December 2000

Article provided by Grove Art Online