"The annual farce of the Turner Prize is now as inevitable in November as is the pantomime at Christmas." - Brian Sewell, The Evening Standard, 19 November 1992
The Turner Prize is "intended to promote public discussion of new developments in contemporary British art." This rather lofty decription of the award's intention tends to translate each year into tabloid indignation about how rubbish, elitist and silly modern art is. There will be the inevitable grumbling about the lack of paintings and outrage at the mundanity / morbidity / immorality of the installation pieces. And don't get the critics started about the video works - ooh, those are never popular.
There's something for everyone to get wound up about in this year's shortlist of four: Tomma Abts has been selected for - the shock! the horror! - paintings. Rebecca Warren has been selected for her lumpy scuptures. Mark Titchner supplies the most potential for Daily Mail-style frothing at the mouth for his intriguing mixed media installations and Phil Collins has been selected to irritate the anti-photography brigade with not only photography but also video pieces in his part of the show.
Whatever whining and wailing arises from the announcement of the Turner Prize each year, it means good things for those selected. Previous Turner Prize shortlist artists include Anish Kapoor, Rachel Whiteread, Damien Hirst, Anthony Gormley, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Tracey Emin... Clearly, just getting into the final four or five with your work shown as part of the annual shortlist exhibition is a big step to becoming a huge name. A bit of hand wringing from the traditionalists who don't "get" modern art can be taken in one's stride after one look at the History of the Turner Prize.
The Turner Prize is sponsored by Gordon's Gin, also sponsoring the 2006 Late at Tate events on the first Friday of each month. Top prize this year is £25,000 and £5,000 for all the others on the shortlist. Who should win? Let us know in the comments below.
The Turner Prize shortlist exhibition is at Tate Britain, 3 October to 14 January, winner will be announced on 4 December. Entry is £5.00; booking is recommended. For more information about this year's Turner Prize shortlist, go to the Tate Britain Turner Prize website here. The picture shows a detail from Mark Titchner's If You Can Dream It, You Must Do It, 2003.