A Caucus Race

At last the Dodo said, ‘everybody has won, and all must have prizes.’

The Man Booker Prize was this year won jointly by Margaret Attwood and Bernardine Evaristo: two feminist writers, one black one white. Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Helen Cammock, Oscar Murillo and Tai Shani were jointly awarded the Turner Prize, after writing to the judges asking to be considered as a group.

Said Will Gomperz, BBC arts editor, ‘Maybe annual awards like the Turner Prize and the Booker Prize … are reaching their sell-by date: an anachronism from a bygone binary age of winners and losers.’

But a discerning observer will notice that something else is happening. Aside from the sentiment, expressed by many, that ‘art is not competitive’, is the question of discrimination. Now that all consideration of craftsmanship has been eliminated from the adjudication of art works – one unmade bed, after all, is much like another – all that remains is the meaning or significance of the work.

The world being what it is, this will naturally take the form of social relevance or political correctness. There can, of course, be no adjudication between different forms of virtue signalling. Your truth and my truth are self-evidently equal.

On those grounds a Caravaggio, a Gainsborough or a David Hockney are all incomparable. And their creators, like the competitors for the Turner Prize, might as well combine to say as much. The paragone of Renaissance artists is obviously now a dead letter, getting in the way of the true and unfettered expression of the self.

Comparisons are odious and discrimination is a crime.  Everybody has won and all must have prizes!

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