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You are in: Liverpool > Capital of Culture > Features > Turner Prize - History

Tracey Emin

Tracey Emin didn't actually win

Turner Prize - History

The Turner Prize has been one of the UK's most controversial awards with nominees and winners often attracting criticism and ridicule.

The Turner Prize, which is being held in Liverpool for 2007, has proved controversial since its inception in 1984.

Here is a run down of some of the high and low points over the years.


The naming of the prize proves controversial with accusations that the early 19th Century artist, JMW Turner, who the prize is named after, would not approve.

The name, chosen by the prize founders, the Tate Gallery’s Patrons of New Art, chose Turner because he had been controversial in his day and had wanted to establish a prize for new artists.

A letter to the Observer says “Turner must be rotating in his grave at the prize given in his name by the Tate Gallery.”


Gilbert and George won the Turner Prize with their Coming.


Nicholas Serota took over as director of the Tate and changed the prize conditions.

The Turner Prize would now only be awarded to artists. Previously it had been open to anyone working in the arts including curators and critics.


Due to a lack of sponsorship there was no Turner Prize in 1990.

Damien Hirst

Damien Hirst won in 1995


Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty of the K Foundation launch their own Anti-Turner Prize with 40,000 to be given to the ‘worst artist in Britain’.

The winner of the Turner Prize, Rachel Whiteread, also won the K Foundations award.


Damien Hirst won the prize with Mother and Child, Divided, which included a cow in formaldehyde solution.


Chris Ofili won the prize with his use of balls of elephant dung attached to mixed media images on a canvas.


Tracey Emin’s My Bed received a large amount of media attention and criticism.

Despite the attention that Emin’s work received the Turner Prize for 1999 was actually won by Steve McQueen with his black and white film Deadpan.


Martin Creed’s empty room with lights going on and off took the prize, but was almost upstaged by an egg-throwing protestor and Madonna swearing on live television when she presented him with his award.

last updated: 17/10/07

You are in: Liverpool > Capital of Culture > Features > Turner Prize - History

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