Art prizes always create controversy; people seem to love to hate them and the media is so practiced at producing outraged copy about pickled sheep, elephant dung paintings, lights flicking on and off, unmade beds and other shock tactics of the YBA scene that there must be an automatic "critics column" generator out there somewhere.
One of the bolder art prizes, still in its infancy being under 10 years old is about to face the chop: the ICA will stop running the Becks Futures prize for contemporary art after seven years of controversy and cutting edge edginess. It was originally created as a reaction against the Turner Prize and it's an extremely generous amount of money for a young, emerging artist to win: £20,000 for the first prize, a separate £5,000 film award and a share of the remaining £40,000 to be divided between the rest of the shortlist. We're quite sure the winners and shortlisted artists get a few free bottles of the German brew too.
Becks has 20 years of arts sponsorship and has made it clear what kind of art the beer wants to be associated with when it joined forces with the ICA to create the Becks Futures prize. We remember the 2003 awards because there was a video of Irish performance artist David Sherry stitching a piece of wood on to the soles of his feet. An African tribe does this in order to cross large areas of desert and scrubland; Sherry was doing it for the chance to win the top prize of £20,000. Other entries have included sculptures made from vacuum cleaner fluff, a performance piece featuring a home made, life-size Jabba the Hutt, bespoke perfume and an artist singing Radiohead's Airbag over the PA system to shoppers in a local branch of Tesco.
We're going to miss the Beck's Prize - and we're quite sure contemporary artists starving in garrets all over the land will miss it too.
But never fear! A new prize will be launched next year to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the ICA. It's unclear who will sponsor it or indeed, where the prize fund will come from, but with this kind of precedent and the amount previously offered (the Beck's prize fund in total is bigger than the Turner prize) any new award has got a lot to live up to.