The Turner Prize was set up in 1984 by the newly formed Patrons of New Art and it’s aim was two-fold, firstly to attract lively and intelligent debate for new art across the broad spectrum and secondly also for the Tate to be involved in contemporary art without spending too much taxpayer’s money because the Gallery was still reeling from the scandal in the mid 70s which surrounded the notorious affair of Equivalent VIII the Carl Andre pile of bricks which the Gallery had purchased. So 1984 the first Turner Prize, Malcolm Morley wins, he is an expatriate, he also served a short prison sentence earlier in his life so that attracted a big media scandal, lots of attention and the Turner really seemed to be taking off with gusto. After then during the 80s it went a bit wobbly. Its rules changed, it didn’t really have a set format until the early 90s, 1991 to be precise when Channel 4 took over the sponsorship and it assumed the format that it has now pretty much bar a few adjustments. 1991 I feel was the year that the Turner Prize really came of age. There had been some great prize winners before, Tony Cragg, Richard Deacon, Gilbert & George but this was the year that the Prize settled into the format that we now know. What was so funny was that of the four short listed, Anish Kapoor was the winner but he seemed like a grand old man even though he was only 37 years of age, it really seemed like a new spirit and art was now washing through the Turner Prize. By the mid 90s, British art was really burgeoning and I think the so called YBA generation were really leaping to the forefront as is evidenced by this marvellous piece by Damien Hirst who was the Prize winner for 1995, Mother and Child Divided but let’s not forget he had been short listed beforehand and quite often in the Turner’s history artists are short listed more than once, Willie Doherty, Rachael Whiteread and now Mark Wallinger so I think that’s interesting too, you know, that artists can have several bits at the Turner but certainly at this point in the mid 90s, I think Hirst winning seemed very much part of the zeitgeist and part of the spirit of the times. I think 1997 was also a crucial year in the history of the Turner Prize because for the first time there was an all woman short list and it did show that by then and indeed by now you don’t need to be a woman artist you are just an artist and they were four amazingly strong artists, Cornelia Parker, Angela Bullock, Gillian Wearing, the winner, and Christine Borland and I think it just laid down the marker that these issues didn’t matter any more although having said that only three women have actually won the Turner Prize in its entire history, so there is still room for some improvement when you think of the amount of women artists out there making excellent work. The year 2000 is obviously a key year in every respect. The beginning of the new millennium and the opening of Tate Modern and that year was the year that the Turner Prize very resolutely remained in Tate Britain because after all it’s a prize devoted to art made in Britain and I make that distinction because I think what’s interesting about the year 2000 Turner short list and indeed winner is it showed the internationalism of what it meant to be making art in Britain. Wolfgang Tillmans the winner, German born, Britain based. The fact that artists from all over the globe now come and make art in Britain I think is a testament to the diversity of the scene and feeds into it so I think that year’s Turner Prize short list really reflected the true nature of what it meant to be making art in Britain. There have been so many great artists involved with the Turner Prize, great winners, great short listers but I would love to single out a few of my top favourites. I think Chris Ofili certainly rates very high in my hit list, this great painting No Woman No Cry commemorating the death of Stephen Lawrence just shows what painting can be made to say and do conceptually, formally, visually and putting painting in the Turner Prize in a way that is fresh and exciting. Martin Creed’s the Lights Going On and Off, I mean what a bold piece. This shows what the Turner Prize can do to applaud the most radical art, the most difficult if you like but also the most immediate art and it was not a popular choice this necessarily amongst many people but I think it just shows how important the Turner is that an artist of Creed’s stature and a work of this boldness won the Turner and indeed was shown at the Tate at that time. I think standing in this room which has the most recent years of the Turner Prize just shows how important the Turner Prize still is to show the breadth, the diversity, the scope of what is being made in Britain at the moment. You have got Jeremy Deller who tracks youth movements, who films bats coming out of caves, who makes acid house music be played by brass bands. He works with communities, he isn’t there on the artist’s pedestal he is working out there in different aspects of the world we live in. You have got Grayson Perry who won in 2003, who makes these exquisite pots, these ceramics but highly subversive at the same time as being exquisite to show that even the lowly art of pottery and coil pots at that not even thrown ones can be elevated to the highest echelon of fine art. And then you have got Tomma Abts who won last year who makes these quiet, beautiful abstract paintings which reference so many painters of the past but which speak in such a quiet but insistent voice of their own. So this shows to me that the Turner Prize still is so relevant just to reveal to the world at large the British public and everybody else just how multifarious British art can be. How contemporary art now wears so many different guises and can be open to so many different interpretations.