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Gavin Turk
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Biography
Gavin Turk rose to prominence in the early 1990s during the so-called 'young British artists' phenomenon: a wave of media interest provoked by an ambitious generation of artists with a flair for self-promotion. Turk's thoughtful, visually striking work gained him a reputation as an artist who questioned the nature and values of identity, pop culture, and art itself. Turk was born in 1967 in Guildford England and went to the Royal College of Art in London. In 1991 Turk was denied his MA certificate from the Royal College of Art for his degree show presentation, which consisted of an empty white studio with a blue English Heritage plaque installed, which simply bore the inscription "Borough of Kensington / GAVIN TURK / Sculptor / Worked Here 1989-1991." 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. Senior members of staff refused Turk his MA degree - the first time this ever happened. However, many visitors, including the young art dealer, Jay Jopling, recognized the artwork as a serious, multi-layered installation with a knowing take on art history. The piece brought Turk critical acclaim and academic notoriety in equal measure. Turk's work has been collected by Charles Saatchi and was presented in Saatchi's most influential and controversial exhibition 'Sensation' (1997), marking his presence as a central figure of the YBA group. Turk's installations and sculptures deal with issues of authorship, authenticity and identity. Concerned with the 'myth' of the artist and the 'authorship' of a work, Turk's engagement with this modernist, avant-garde debate stretches back to the ready-mades of Marcel Duchamp. In the early 1990s Turk explored issues of authorship and identity by making a number of works based on his own signature that comment on the value that the artist's name confers onto a work. He has also made a number of photographic and sculptural self-portraits that often involve some degree of disguise. One of his best-known sculptures, Pop (1993), is a life-size waxwork 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. In more recent works such as Pile (2004), a painted bronze sculpture of a pile of bin bags, Turk explores the way in which a work of art is conferred with iconic status and value. He is interested in the way fame and celebrity affect the understanding of art and the position of artists. Included in this exhibition are museum scale canvases that depict the artist, in the personae of Che Guevara, Elvis Presley and Joseph Beuys, all in the style of Andy Warhol. Turk borrows from the history of art and at the same time references contemporary popular culture, exploring the power of artists while questioning the uniqueness and inherent value structure of the creative process.

Turk's work has been included in many seminal exhibitions including the latest groundbreaking POPLIFE show at Tate Modern (2009) as well as the Venice Biennale (2001), the 46th International Istanbul Biennial (1999), Material Culture, Hayward Gallery, London (1998), and Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection, Royal Academy of Arts, Saatchi Collection, London (1995). Recent exhibitions have included: Gavin Turk: The Negotiation of Purpose, GEM Museum for Contemporary Art, The Hague, The Netherlands; Gavin Turk: Last Year in Eggenburg (The Paradise Show), Schloss Eggenburg, Graz; Gavin Turk: et in arcadia eggo, New Art Centre Sculpture Park & Gallery, Salisbury; and Gavin Turk Oeuvre, Tate Britain Sculpture Court Display, London. Gavin Turk lives and works in London.
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