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BOYCE - Turner Prize Installation view 2011

GATESHEAD, United Kingdom – The globally influential Turner Prize, sponsored by Nokia, was won tonight by sculptor Martin Boyce.

As well as a £25,000 cheque, he stands to gain far more from the worldwide exposure which the award will earn him.

The Turner Prize is often controversial because it challenges many people’s idea of art.

A bit like Wimbledon – when people dig out their tennis racket from the garage and go to the park for their annual game – the Turner Prize turns us all into art critics for an hour or so at this time of year.

The styles of criticism are poles apart – ranging from blunt put-downs such as “Call that art? A five-year-old could do better” to more considered appreciations like “this is a deeply personal juxtaposition of subject matter and material”.

BLACK - Turner Prize Installation View 2011

Named after the British Romantic landscape painter J.W.M.Turner (1775-1851) and first awarded in 1984, prizewinners have been known for their ability to shock and even offend those who have a more conservative view of art.

Past winner Damien Hirst , who produced A Shark in Formaldehyde, said famously in his 1995 acceptance speech: “It’s amazing what you can do with an E in A-Level art, a twisted imagination and a chainsaw.”

But he and other winners, including Antony Gormley, Gilbert & George and Chris Ofili have become world-respected figures after winning this prize.

SHAW - The New Houses 2011

This year the other three  nominees were Karla Black, who created the installation “curtains” (background image on today’s home page);  Hilary Lloyd, with a high tech video installation; and urban landscape painter George Shaw.

Critic Charles Darwent says: “I can’t recall a stronger show over the past 27 years, better chosen, better displayed, more poised or grown-up.”

And one past winner believes that people have never felt more connected to contemporary art. Jeremy Deller, who won in 2004, says: “It’s for the public, it’s for the artists who take part …. It’s for the appreciation of contemporary art.

“The public and media are more used to contemporary art now.  When I won, I said you lot [journalists at the press conference] are 10 years behind the public, you’re still in this era of ‘this is all a big con’ or ‘this is rubbish’.

LLOYD - Turner Prize Installation shot

“But you see people at the Turner Prize walking around, and they are into it in a way you’d never expect, reading everything and looking at everything.”

The Turner Prize is a great fit with sponsors Nokia and its slogan “connecting people” because it connects people to art.

John Nichols, Marketing Director at Nokia UK said: “Whether it’s art, music, or simply life itself- Nokia is dedicated to connecting people to the things that matter to them most.

“Our involvement with this years Turner Prize is a great example of this, bringing our heritage in contemporary design to this prestigious art award – the perfect launch partner for the unique and beautiful Nokia Lumia 800.”

[do action=”boxout”]Enjoy paintings on your Nokia Lumia phones via these free apps at the Marketplace: Fine Art Wallpapers  and Lookatart. Plus, try visiting the world’s top galleries on your phone browser.[/do]

The prize, announced in the Baltic Gallery, at 20.15 (GMT) was followed by a viewing of the nominees’ work for 700 guests.

Conversations by Nokia had joined a crowd on the sixth floor who viewed proceedings via a live-streamed broadcast filmed in front of 200 distinguished guests on the second floor of the building.

Links: Jeremy Deller interview. Early reactions to Turner Prize 2011 exhibition.