Turner Prize – Demystified

Hurvin Anderson, Is it OK to be black?  2016.  (Detail)

The Turner Prize

The Turner Prize was set up in 1984 to encourage wider appreciation of contemporary art and has become one of the best known visual art prizes in the world.  Each year 4 artists are short-listed.

They must be “British” which means either working mainly in Britain or born in Britain and working anywhere.

They are chosen based on an exhibition that they have held during the past year and they are then invited to prepare (at speed) a brief show for the Turner Prize.  They are NOT chosen based on their entry to the Turner Prize itself, which is why the entries that we see can appear confusing – we usually don’t see the artwork which led to the artist’s selection (unless we do a bit of research).

In 1991 an age limit of under 50 was introduced – before 1991 artists could be any age.  This restriction was lifted this year so, once again, artists can be any age.

The public are invited to nominate artists although we learnt from a Turner judge in 2006 that the public’s nominations are largely ignored.


The Turner Prize is controversial and often triggers media debates about what art is.

A number of prominent artists have come to public attention and fame/notoriety following Turner Prize exhibitions – to name a few – Grayson Perry (winner 2003), Tracey Emin (short-listed 1999 with her autobiographical but notorious “My Bed”); Chris Ofili  (1998 – “No Woman No Cry” which sensationally included elephant dung but in fact is a really beautiful painting); and, more controversially, Damien Hirst (1995 “Mother and Child Divided” – his 4 tanked sculpture of bisected cow and calf preserved in formaldehyde).

2017 Prize

The Turner Prize is staged outside London every second year, and this year it is to be held in Hull. The winner will be announced on 5th December 2017, and broadcast by the BBC.

This year’s selection comprises 3 women and 1 man, all over 40:  pioneer of the British Black Arts Movement, painter Lubaina Himid whose work looks at personal and political identity; painter Hurvin Anderson (the only male) whose work addresses political questions to do with identity and belonging and is influenced by his Caribbean heritage;  Palestinian-English film artist Rosalind Nashashibi who explores sites of human occupation (from a family home to the Gaza strip); and German-born mixed media artist Andrea Buttner whose work explores religion, morality and ethics.

The winner wins £25,000 and the other 3 artists win £5,000 each.


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