Susan Philipsz after receiving the 2010 Turner Prize
Susan Philipsz after receiving the 2010 Turner Prize

The Turner Prize is a contemporary art award set up in 1984 to celebrate new developments in contemporary art. 

It is awarded each year to ‘a British artist under fifty for an outstanding exhibition or other presentation of their work in the twelve months preceding’.

The shortlist

Nominations are invited each year, and the prize is judged by an independent jury that changes annually.

The four shortlisted artists present works in a show normally held at Tate Britain before the winner is announced in December. Artists are not judged on their show at Tate. 

The decision is based on the work for which they were nominated.

The exhibition

The exhibition is designed to enable the public to see and discuss the work of the shortlisted artists. 

The artists are not judged on the work they show in the exhibition. They are nominated for, and judged on, work they exhibited in the previous twelve months.

The artists can choose to show any recent work in this exhibition. They make their selection in collaboration with curators from Tate Britain. 

Important and prestigious

Over the recent decades the Turner Prize has played a significant role in provoking debate about visual art and the growing public interest in contemporary British art in particular, and has become widely recognised as one of the most important and prestigious awards for the visual arts in Europe.

A brief history

The prize was founded by a group called the Patrons of New Art. They were formed in 1982 to help buy new art for Tate’s collection, and to encourage wider interest in contemporary art.

The Patrons wanted a name associated with great British art. They chose J.M.W. Turner (1775–1851) partly because he had wanted to establish a prize for young artists.

He also seemed appropriate because his work was controversial in his own day.