Gavin Turk

Biography of Gavin Turk

Gavin Turk's unforgettable and darkly humorous work uses irony to question the values of pop culture, art, and identity. Loosely involved in the Young British Artists (YBAs) in the late 1980s, Gavin Turk was the serum to the risible self-promotion of artists like Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst. Born in Guildford in 1967, Turk studied at Chelsea College of Art before taking an MA at the Royal College of Art. It was there that Turk achieved notoriety by leaving his exhibition space empty but for an English Heritage blue plaque commemorating his time there. Though Turk was denied a final mark by his tutors, he was to have the last laugh by catching the eye of then celebrity collector, Charles Saatchi, who helped ignite his career. His playful questioning of the concept of art and the role of the artist provides a conceptual framework for his subsequent practice. His editions and multiples echo this witty and skeptical take on the world.      


In his sculptures and installations Gavin Turk will often use his own image, such as in his series of life-sized waxworks of Sid Vicious and Che Guevara that incorporate the artist's own figure. He does so to critique the construction of artistic myths of authorship, and even question creativity itself. Turk has himself said, "I try to interrogate ideas of value with my work: to stop the blindness that appears when certain artworks become iconic". His continual questioning has resulted in a singular artist career, one that has even seen Turk pursue types of contemporary British sculpture long since forgotten such as the waxwork, painted bronze, and even the use of rubbish in art.


In 2001 the Royal Academy awarded Gavin Turk for his work Bag the Jack Goldhill Sculpture Prize and also in 2007 the Charles Wollaston Award. He was an important participant in the Tate Modern exhibition Pop Life: Art in the Material World in 2009. In 2014 his installation 7201964238 opened at the Bowes Museum. His work is collected around the world and he regularly exhibits internationally.

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