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By Mike Ellison, Lawrence Donegan (24 November, 1993, Guardian)
SEVEN white stretched Cadillacs were pulling away from the Gloucester Hotel, in the West End of London, last night. The cream of the arts establishment was gathering at the Tate Gallery. And six members of Bow neighbourhood council were meeting in east London.
What they had in common was Rachel Whiteread. The art terrorists of the K Foundation said she was the worst artist of the year and gave her pounds 40,000 for her trouble. The judges of the Turner Prize said she was the best and gave her pounds 20,000. The Bow councillors said her best-known work, House, a concrete cast of a condemned house, must come down next Wednesday.
Whiteread won the modern art establishment's prize for the excellence of her concrete casts, and the foundation's for their lack of the same quality.
Meanwhile, the council was rejecting pleas to keep House in place until January.
The Cadillacs were taking 25 journalists to a Surrey woodland clearing, "a secret destination where they will be able to witness and document the amending of art history". They were met by two orange armoured personnel carriers and each of them was invited to nail pounds 1,600 to a picture frame which was later presented to Whiteread on the steps of the Tate.
The K Foundation, an offshoot of the KLF rock band, financed its prize through hit records such as Justified and Ancient and 3am Eternal. "She was a fairly convincing winner," said Mick Houghton, spokesman for the foundation - 3,000 people had filled in ballot forms printed in national newspaper advertisements.
The Turner judges commended Whiteread for "the ways in which her work engages audiences with issues of immediate relevance to their lives".
The public were impressed, or not, for other reasons. "Whiteread seemed to capture their imagination," said Mr Houghton. "Maybe people just liked the sound of her name, or rather didn't.
"I'd be surprised if many of the voters had seen her work, but the idea is to point out the hypocrisy of all these awards. The Turner is hardly for new artists." The youngest artist on the shortlist was Whiteread, aged 31, and the oldest was the painter Sean Scully, aged 48.
Both the Turner and the foundation had spurned the attractions of 32-year-old Vong Phaophanit's Neon Rice Field, seven tons of rice shaped like a ploughed field with six red neon strips running up the furrows. The other shortlisted artist was the photographer Hannah Collins, aged 37.
Lord Palumbo, chairman of the Arts Council, who presented the Turner to Whiteread, said: "To expand our artistic horizons, to move forward, we must put funds towards experimentation and innovation in the arts.
"Talent at the highest level attracts derision. We must let the artist fail."
Peter Chater, speaking on behalf of Whiteread, said the foundation's prize was not one with which she was prepared to be associated. The pounds 40,000 would be distributed to 10 artists in financial need.
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