Gavin Turk was born in Guildford, Surrey. He attended the Royal College of Art, in London. In 1991, the tutors refused to give him the final degree because of his show, called Cave, which consisted of a whitewashed studio space, containing only a blue heritage plaque (of the kind normally found on historic buildings) commemorating his own presence as a sculptor. This bestowed some instant notoriety on Turk, whose work was collected by Charles Saatchi.
Turk pieces often involves his own image disguised as that of a more famous person. He has cast himself in a series of detailed life sized sculptures as different romantic heroes, including Sid Vicious, Jean-Paul Marat and the leftist revolutionary Che Guevara.
Turk’s work Pop is a waxwork of Turk as Sid Vicious in white jacket and black trousers, pointing a gun—a work which toured London, Berlin and New York as part of the 1997 exhibit Sensation (art exhibition appropriated the stance of Andy Warhol’s painting of Elvis Presley, thereby depicting Turk himself as a cowboy.
Turk has also appropriated recognizable elements from Jacques Louis David, Yves Klein, Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol, Rene Magritte, and Jasper Johns.
Ambiguity features as much as self-obsession throughout Turk’s work. What appeared to be a discarded plastic rubbish bag was in fact a bronze sculpture of one. This ambiguity is also addressed in works like Nomad (red) (2003) which looks like a sleeping bag, but is bronze, and Box (2002), which looks like cardboard but is also bronze. A large industrial skip (normally yellow, battered and covered in rust) was also painted an immaculate gloss black. Turk turned up at the private view of the Sensation exhibition at the solemn Royal Academy, London, dressed as a down-and-out.