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Wednesday, 29 October, 1997, 13:25 GMT
But is it art?
The Tate Gallery in London has opened this year's exhibition of works by artists shortlisted for the country's most controversial art award, the Turner Prize.

The work, by a shortlist of four women contemporary artists, will go on public view on Thursday before the winner is announced in early December.

Previous winners include Damien Hirst, notorious for suspending dead animals in formaldehyde.

This year a protest group plans to picket the exhibition, claiming it promotes trivial and banal art.

One artist initially selected for the shortlist, Julian Opie, has let it be known he refused because he felt the Prize had degenerated into a publicity stunt with little real meaning.

There are reports, which the organisers will neither confirm nor deny, that he was not the only shortlisted artist to boycott it.

The Tate Gallery has stressed that the work displayed is accessible, arguing art can be anything and doesn't have to be paintings or marble.

In Cornelia Parker's "Mass", lumps of charcoal taken from a church which was struck by lightning hang from the ceiling on threads.

Her previous art has involved blowing up a garden shed, steamrollering everyday items and throwing things off the cliffs of Dover.

Among the other Turner Prize entries is a huge piece of furniture, brightly painted, and surrounded by strange noises set off by visitors treading on pressure pads.

And "Sixty Minutes' Silence", by Gillian Wearing, features a giant video screen which simply shows ranks of police officers standing in silence for an hour.

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