Leading on from an all-male line up in 1996, things swung the other way in 1997 with the first all-woman shortlist, which led to some accusations of ‘political correctness’ but which most agreed reflected genuine achievement.
In 1998 the widely reported (but mistaken) belief that Chris Ofili painted with elephant dung was a gift to cartoonists.
Giving the country a bad name?
The nomination of Tracey Emin in 1999 made headline news in the tabloids. Emin’s My Bed completely hijacked the exhibition, sparking violent critical response and dividing opinion along the lines of accessibility versus elitism.
The Financial Times was not alone in citing Emin as ‘the people’s choice’, although tabloid coverage of her work prompted Chris Smith, then Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, to claim that some young British artists were giving the country a bad name abroad.
Video as art
Some critics were still unwilling to accept either videos or installations as art, highlighting the challenge facing Tate Modern, which was scheduled to open in the following spring.
The winner, Steve McQueen, worked in film, photography and sculpture.
Not born in Britain
After the upheaval of 1999, the 2000 shortlist appeared much more conservative. It included two painters (Glenn Brown and Michael Raedecker) but only one native-born artist (Glenn Brown).
Nicholas Serota defended the decision to include artists not born in Britain by arguing that if the Turner Prize had been around in the 1740s, the Italian painter Canaletto, who was working in London at the time, would surely have been on the shortlist.
But it was British artist Glenn Brown whose work hit the headlines when he was accused of plagiarism for apparently copying a painting by Tony Roberts reproduced on the cover of a science-fiction book.
Who would be on your shortlist?
Brian Sewell set the tone in 2001 by inviting readers of the Evening Standard to nominate their own shortlist, in an attempt to expose what he saw as the undemocratic nature of the selection process.
Once again there were no women on the shortlist. The piece exhibited by the eventual winner, Martin Creed, was widely ridiculed.
Find out how we celebrated twenty years in the next chapter of the Turner Prize: 2002–05.