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Turner Prize

The Turner Prize is an annual prize given to a British visual artist under 50, named after the painter J.M.W. Turner. It is organized by the Tate, and since its beginnings in 1984 it has become the United Kingdom's most publicised art award. The prize fund in 2004 was £40,000.


Each year during the build-up to the announcement of the winner, the Prize receives intense attention from the media. Much of this attention is critical and the question is often asked, "is this art?". The artists usually work in "innovative" media, including video art, installation art and unconventional sculpture, though painters have also won.

Nominations for the prize are invited from the public, although this is widely considered to have negligible effect. The short-list (which since 1991 has been of four artists) is announced several months before a show of the nominees' work opens at Tate Britain, and the prize itself is announced a few weeks after that. The prize is not judged on the show, however, but on the artists' contribution to art over the previous year.

The exhibition and prize rely on commercial sponsorship. From 1987 this was provided by the company Drexel Burnham Lambert; their withdrawal led to the 1990 prize being cancelled. Channel 4, an independent television channel, stepped in for 1991, doubled the prize money to £20,000, and supported the event with documentaries and live broadcasts of the prize-giving. In 2004 they were replaced as sponsors by Gordon's gin, who also doubled the prize money to £40,000, with £5,000 going to each of the shortlisted artists, and £25,000 to the winner.

As much as the shortlist of artists reflects the state of British Art, the composition of the panel of judges provides some indication of who holds influence institutionally and internationally, as well as rising stars. Tate Director Sir Nicholas Serota has been the Chair of the jury since his tenure at the Tate. There are conflicting reports as to how much personal sway he has over the proceedings.

The media success of the Turner Prize contributed to the success of the late 1990s phenomena of Young British Artists (several of whom were nominees and winners), Cool Britannia, and exhibitions such as the Charles Saatchi-sponsored Sensation.

Criticism of the Turner Prize

* The Evening Standard critic Brian Sewell, wrote "The annual farce of the Turner Prize is now as inevitable in November as is the pantomime at Christmas".

* Critic Jonathan Jones, wrote: "Turner Prize art is based on a formula where something looks startling at first and then turns out to be expressing some kind of banal idea, which somebody will be sure to tell you about. The ideas are never important or even really ideas, more notions, like the notions in advertising. Nobody pursues them anyway, because there's nothing there to pursue." [1]

* In 1993, Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond of the K Foundation received media coverage for the award of the "Anti-Turner Prize", £40,000 to be given to the "worst artist in Britain", voted from the real Turner Prize's short-list. Rachel Whiteread, who won the real prize, also won the anti-Turner Prize. She refused to accept the money at first, but changed her mind when she heard the cash was to be burned instead, and gave £30,000 of it to artists in financial need and the other £10,000 to the housing charity, Shelter. The K Foundation went on to make a film in which they burned £1 million of their own money.

* In 1999 two artists, Jian Jun Xi and Yuan Cai, jumped onto Tracey Emin's work, My Bed, stripped to their underwear, and had a pillow fight. Police detained the two, who called their performance Two Naked Men Jump Into Tracey's Bed. They claimed that her work had not gone far enough, and that they were improving it. Charges were not pressed against them.

* In 1999 a pro-painting group of artists known as the Stuckists was formed. They show particular antipathy towards the Turner Prize, describing it as an "ongoing national joke" and "a state-funded advertising agency for Charles Saatchi"; they continue: "the only artist who wouldn't be in danger of winning the Turner Prize is Turner", concluding that it "should be re-named The Duchamp Award for the destruction of artistic integrity". They have demonstrated outside the prize, sometimes dressed as clowns, every year since 2000, and gained considerable publicity.

* The art critic David Lee has argued that since the re-organisation of the prize in 1991 the shortlist has been dominated by artists represented by a small number of London dealers, namely Nicholas Logsdail of the Lisson Gallery, and others closely linked to the collector Charles Saatchi: Jay Jopling, Maureen Paley and Victoria Miro. The Lisson Gallery has had the most success of any gallery with the Turner Prize from 1991 to 2004.

* In 2002 culture minister Kim Howells pinned the following statement to a board in a room specially-designated for visitors' comments. "If this is the best British artists can produce then British art is lost. It is cold mechanical, conceptual bullshit. Kim Howells. P.S. The attempts at conceptualisation are particularly pathetic and symptomatic of a lack of conviction" His stance was approved by the government, who saw it as a popular one.

List of winners and shortlisted artists

The 1988 shortlist was not published at the time of the prize, and there was no shortlist as such in 1989, although a number of artists other than the winner were "commended".

* 1984 - Malcolm Morley, winner - Farewell to Crete (oil painting)
o Richard Deacon
o Gilbert and George
o Howard Hodgkin
o Richard Long
* 1985 - Howard Hodgkin, winner - A Small Thing But My Own (oil on wood)
o Terry Atkinson
o Tony Cragg
o Ian Hamilton Finlay
o Milena Kalinovska
o John Walker
* 1986 - Gilbert and George, winner - Coming (photo-piece)
o Art & Language
o Victor Burgin
o Derek Jarman
o Steven McKenna
o Bill Woodrow
* 1987 - Richard Deacon, winner - To My Face No.1 (Plywood, vinyl and tinc in timber frame)
o Patrick Caulfield
o Helen Chadwick
o Richard Long
o Declan McGonagle
o Thérèse Oulton
* 1988 - Tony Cragg, winner - George and the Dragon (Mixed media)
o Lucian Freud
o Richard Hamilton
o Richard Long
o David Mach
o Boyd Webb
o Alison Wilding
o Richard Wilson
* 1989 - Richard Long, winner - White Water Line, (China clay and water solution)
o Gillian Ayres
o Lucian Freud
o Giuseppe Penone
o Paula Rego
o Sean Scully
o Richard Wilson
* 1990 - prize suspended
* 1991 - Anish Kapoor, winner - Untitled (Sandstone and pigment)
o Ian Davenport
o Fiona Rae
o Rachel Whiteread
* 1992 - Grenville Davey, winner - HAL (Steel)
o Damien Hirst
o David Tremlett
o Alison Wilding
* 1993 - Rachel Whiteread, winner - House Commissioned by Artangel Trust and Beck's (corner of Grove Road and Roman Road, London E3, destroyed 1994)
o Hannah Collins
o Vong Phaophanit
o Sean Scully
* 1994 - Antony Gormley, winner - Testing a World View (Cast iron, five pieces)
o Willie Doherty
o Peter Doig
o Shirazeh Houshiary
* 1995 - Damien Hirst, winner - Mother and Child, Divided (Steel, GRP composites, glass, silicone sealants, cow, calf, formaldehyde solution)
o Mona Hatoum
o Callum Innes
o Mark Wallinger
* 1996 - Douglas Gordon, winner - Confessions of a Justified Sinner (Video installation)
o Craigie Horsfield
o Gary Hume
o Simon Patterson
* 1997 - Gillian Wearing, winner - (Single channel video artwork in colour with sound.)
o Christine Borland
o Angela Bulloch
o Cornelia Parker
* 1998 - Chris Ofili, winner - No Woman, No Cry (Acrylic paint, oil paint, polyester resin, paper collage, map pins, elephant dung on canvas)
o Tacita Dean
o Cathy de Monchaux
o Sam Taylor-Wood
* 1999 - Steve McQueen, winner - Deadpan (16mm black and white film, video transfer, silent).
o Jane and Louise Wilson
o Steven Pippin
o Tracey Emin, whose My Bed got the most media attention
* 2000 - Wolfgang Tillmans, winner - Installation view from the Turner Prize exhibition 2000
o Glenn Brown
o Michael Raedecker
o Tomoko Takahashi
* 2001 - Martin Creed, winner - The Lights Going On and Off (Installation at Tate Britain, 5 seconds on / 5 seconds off)
o Richard Billingham
o Isaac Julien
o Mike Nelson
* 2002 - Keith Tyson, winner - Installation view from the Turner prize exhibition
o Fiona Banner
o Liam Gillick
o Catherine Yass
* 2003 - Grayson Perry, winner [2] (vases)
o Jake and Dinos Chapman
o Willie Doherty
o Anya Gallaccio
* 2004 - Jeremy Deller, winner with Memory Bucket (documentary about Crawford, Texas – the hometown of George W Bush – and the siege in nearby Waco)
o Kutlug Ataman
o Langlands and Bell
o Yinka Shonibare
* 2005 - Simon Starling, winner with Shedboatshed (a shed that had been turned into a boat and then into a shed) [3]
o Darren Almond
o Gillian Carnegie
o Jim Lambie

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