The lucrative Welsh art prize continues to speak to the real world rather than the art world.
Less well known than the Turner Prize, but as generous and rewarding as any other prize in the land, the seventh biannual Artes Mundi can be seen at National Museum Cardiff and nearby Chapter Arts Centre.
Unlike the world famous Turner Prize, Artes Mundi is yet to stir up the anger of the tabloid press. With £40,000 in prize money it’s no less lucrative than its famous relation at Tate Britain this year. But the artists who crop up at the 2016 exhibition in Cardiff have been chosen for their concern with the ‘human condition’; Turner nominees are typically concerned with questions of form and or theory.
The six person shortlist is truly international, rather than nominally British. This means gallery goers in the Welsh capital get to see work from Beruit (Lamia Joreige), France/Algeria (Neïl Beloufa) and Belgium/Angola (Nástio Mosquito), along with the USA (Amy Franceschini), the UK (John Akomfrah), and, specifically, Wales (the inclusion of Bedwyr Williams in his motherland’s greatest art prize is a delight).
But this is one prize in which the artists appear to take second place to the current affairs explored in their work. Akomfrah and Lamia reflect on migration. Franceschini is concerned with food policy, Beloufa and Mosquito with abuses of power. Even Williams takes a break from his broader comic escapades to reflect on the fast growing urban centres of East Asia and contrasts that with the welsh valleys.
All of which is a refreshing break from, say, Helen Martens’ artful arrangements of curious objects which greet visitors to the Turner Prize at Tate Britain this year. Artes Mundi artists are more likely to get their point across with a film, a photograph or a narrative idea on which any of us can get a handle. No it won’t sell many newspapers; but it will sell a good many ideas about the world in which we live.