Selected works by Gavin Turk

Gavin Turk
Che Guevara


Billboard poster

304.8 x 792.5 cm
Gavin Turk
Gavin Turk Right Hand and Forearm


Silkscreen on paper

86 x 68 cm
Gavin Turk
Identity Crisis


Screen print and light box

172 x 112 x 16 cm
Gavin Turk


Painted steel

183.5 x 373 x 184 cm
Gavin Turk
Unoriginal Signature


Steel, natural sponges and pigment paint accompanied by working drawing

180 x 950 cm



My parents were ... My dad is a jeweller; my mum worked as a journalist for a while, but stopped when I was born.

The house/flat I grew up in ... was a detached Victorian house with a very 1970s interior. It had a big garden with fruit trees and a large beech hedge.

When I was a child I wanted to be ... an explorer. I was quite keen on geography and biology, and had an idea of a rainforest somewhere which needed studying.

If I could change one thing about myself ... I wish I'd learnt other languages earlier on.

You wouldn't know it but I'm very good at ... picking things out in odd spaces. I often find myself standing with people and being the first to see something.

You may not know it but I'm no good at ... singing. But I'm a firm believer in not being good at things; it's something I am drawn to.

At night I dream of ... I don't often remember dreams, but the ones I feel most connected to are when I'm moving from inside the dream to outside the dream, one geography to another.

What I see when I look in the mirror ... I certainly don't see a reflection of what it feels like from the inside. We don't really have a mirror in our house, though I have some around to make sure I don't leave the house with a lump of toothpaste on my face.

My favourite item of clothing ... was a shirt which I've now worn all the way through. The collar totally ripped off, and it's in tatters. I still have it, as an aide-memoire.



The Young British Artist on his new show at Tate Modern, a hilarious lunch with fellow artists and his upcoming work with fairy tales

I've been sulking for much of the week, because my scooter – my beautiful scooter – has been stolen again from outside my house in east London. I have the privilege, at least, of being able to use the national press as a big notice-board for getting the scooter back. So here goes: it is a black Vespa 50 with a GT sticker in place of the usual GB version – number plate LK05CWX.

If you have seen it, please contact the Observer or, indeed, the police. The stickers are an artwork I originally made for an Art Car Boot Fair in 2007. The conceit at the time was to sell 12 signed and stickered old dented car boots (literally a car boot sale, geddit?) from the back of my van – a van that has also been sadly stolen.

My sculpture "Pop" is in the show Pop Life, Art in a Material World, which has just opened at Tate Modern – not yet stolen, as far as I can tell. The show has, it seems, been pushing back the edge of the cultural envelope a bit too far.

The police's obscene publications squad has been on a visit (encouraged by some newspaper coverage apparently) and had to close down part of the show, a red room containing a text and an appropriated photograph of naked 10-year-old Brooke Shields, taken originally in the Seventies by ad photographer Gary Gross. Artist Richard Prince photographed this photograph in 1983 and presented it as an artwork with the title Spiritual America with a text that explained the image as a metaphor for America.



At the preview of Gavin Turk’s ‘The Stuff Show’, the works were entirely concealed in swathes of unbleached cotton duck. Relative indifference held those present in its iron grip: everyone briefly wondered whether there really was any work beneath the covers, registered the self-consciously ineffectual avant-garde gambit, then got on with the serious matter of socialising.

Next day, as promised, off came the wrappings. ‘The Stuff Show’ held out the promise of new work, but turned out to be a mini-retrospective. Amongst the exhibits were: a couple of pastiche Manzoni achromes, with Turk’s signature writ large; a ‘Magrittian’ photograph that grafted a Manzoni egg onto the shoulders of the artist; a waxwork version of David’s Death of Marat, with Turk in the lead role as defunct revolutionary; another wax self-portrait, this time attired in the rancid clothes used by the artist to masquerade as a vagrant at the ‘Sensation’ opening (the Baudelairean avant-gardist as ragpicker). Same themes, same borrowings - Turk is nothing if not consistent.

Two central, interrelated, claims might be advanced for the work: that it critiques both authorial originality and the avant-garde’s key transgressions against the art institution. Turk rejects the position of originator through his wholesale appropriation of other artists’ motifs. Further, his favoured borrowings are from those whose practices have investigated the validating function of the authorial signature: in particular, Klein, Warhol, Duchamp and Manzoni. Thus, Turk turns lack of originality into an original position, and crafts what the show’s catalogue describes as a ‘classically-authored body of work’ from a set of gestures that in principle should undermine that very possibility. A neatly topped-and-tailed rationale; but does this really give rise to a range of insightful or radical critiques?

Take the piece Font, for example. Installed in a key position in the gallery, Font features a white lavatory pan-cum-giant-eggcup sitting on a rough wooden block with an engraved plate attached. (Font is one of a series, and the plate on each bears the name of a different art gallery.) There are an assortment of references here - from Manzoni’s Magic Bases; to every avant-gardist from Breton to Broodthaers who has ever made use of an egg; to a series of works by Richard Hamilton; and most obviously, to Duchamp’s Fountain of 1917.