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Sunday, 14 November, 1999, 07:31 GMT
Art award under fire
Last year's Turner Prize winning work by Chris Ofili
Britain's most prestigious art prize has reportedly been criticised as seeking "controversy for controversy's sake" by Culture Secretary Chris Smith.

Nominated work My Bed: Has already caused much controversy
Mr Smith said The Turner Prize was "too narrow" and "unrepresentative of British art", The Sunday Times reported.

This year's event has already had more publicity than usual, after two art students staged a semi-naked pillow fight on one of the exhibits of nominated work - an unmade bed.

According to the newspaper, Mr Smith believes that the award's focus on conceptual and installation art could lead to traditional artistic skills being eroded.

He was also said to be concerned that a narrow clique of conceptual artists are "branding" British art abroad.

Gillian Wearing's 60 Minutes Silence won in 1997
He was quoted as saying: "It's giving the impression that only these sorts of artists are the mainstay of what Britain is producing.

"There must be more room for painting and drawing."

Government sources said the remarks were accurate and the minister had expressed concern about the lack of "traditional" art in the exhibition of work by the four nominated artists, which is exhibited at the Tate Gallery.

'My Bed'

The 20,000 prize, established in 1984 and given to British artists under 50, has attracted much criticism over the years.

Cathy de Monchaux: Runner-up last year
Recent winning entries have included Damien Hirst's pickled animals and Chris Ofili's psychedelic paintings which incorporate elephant dung.

This year's frontrunner for the prize, to be announced on 30 November, is Tracey Emin's display "My Bed".

This is her own unmade bed, complete with crumpled sheets, used condoms, empty vodka bottles, dirty underwear and other personal detritus.

The other four hopefuls have been nominated for work using film, video and photography exhibits.

However, the Turner Prize could soon be superseded by a new, bigger and just as contemporary prize.

Beck's Futures awards are designed to help promising artists gain recognition, with a prize for the winner of 25,000.

The shortlisted entries will be showcased at the ICA from March to May 2000, and the exhibition will then go on tour to Manchester and Glasgow. Judges named include Mr Hirst and pop star Jarvis Cocker.

See also:

20 Oct 99 | UK
The Turner Prize draw
03 Jun 99 | Entertainment
True confessions and coming clean
02 Dec 98 | Entertainment
Elephant dung artist scoops award
24 Oct 99 | UK
Feathers fly at art show
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