Artists assemble! How collectives took over the art world

They’re principled, they’re powerful and they make the art world jumpy. As the Turner prize is split four ways, we look at how collectives are shaking things up

ast week, the four artists shortlisted for the Turner prize turned themselves into a four-strong collective in order to win as a group – a move that caused controversy in the press, consternation over social media and a bust-up on Radio 4 between the Guardian’s art critic Adrian Searle and his Sunday Times counterpart, Waldemar Januszczak.

The four artists – Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Helen Cammock, Oscar Murillo and Tai Shani – said they came together “in the name of commonality, multiplicity and solidarity”. In case the politics underpinning the gesture were not obvious, the artists accepted their equal split of the £40,000 prize bearing stickers supporting Jeremy Corbyn and demanding: “Tories out.”

“Historically,” says Ellen Mara De Wachter, author of a book called Co-Art: Artists on Creative Collaboration, “collectives have always been linked with a leftwing outlook. These four artists didn’t just talk the talk, they walked it – and they made a sacrifice. Theirs was a dadaist gesture that exposes how absurd the value system in art is.”