British artist Richard Wright wins Turner Prize

British artist Richard Wright was named Monday the winner of this year's Turner Prize, one of the world's most controversial art awards, for his enormous gold-leaf fresco.

Wright beat hot favourite Roger Hiorns to win the 25,000-pound (41,000 dollars, 28,000 euros) prize, contemporary art's most prestigious award, at a ceremony at the Tate Britain gallery in London.

Wright, 49, said winning felt "shocking but very good, very good."

"Thanks very much. Just when I thought it was OK to relax, this happens."

"I have nothing grand to say about that, just thank you, that's all I have to say," he said after thanking his family and friends.

Wright, who creates wall paintings, spent four weeks on the huge gold-leaf fresco for the Turner prize, that almost covers one wall of the Tate gallery, and will be painted over once the exhibition closes.

"It was an intense process and we worked all the hours, every day," Wright, from Glasgow in Scotland, told Channel 4.

The Turner jury said in a statement that they "admired the profound originality and beauty of Wright's work."

Wright beat Hiorns, Enrico David and Lucy Skaer, who were also shortlisted for the prize, and will receive 5,000 pounds each.

The Turner Prize, one of Europe's most prestigious for the visual arts, is renowned for rewarding controversial works. However, this year's shortlist includes artists who practice more conventional painting and drawing.

Bookmakers William Hill said Hiorns was the 10/11 overwhelming favourite to win the prize, having attracted several high bets.

The prize was set up in 1984 to celebrate new developments in contemporary art. It is awarded to an artist aged under 50, born, living or working in Britain, for "an outstanding exhibition or other presentation of their work" in the 12 months to May.

Hiorns, 34, uses unusual materials for his installations. He transformed a London flat into a crystal cave by filling it with 90,000 litres of liquid copper sulphate which slowly crystallised. He is also nominated for turning a jet engine into a dust landscape.

Italian Enrico David, 43, is a "contemporary surrealist who creates rich and profoundly original painting, drawing and sculpture," according to Tate Britain.

His nominated work includes rocking papier mache egg-men and sinister-looking naked dolls.

Skaer, 34, makes drawings, sculptures and films, creating images often based on photographs that "hover in the space between recognition and ambiguity," Tate Britain said.

Her work includes the skull of a sperm whale which is viewed peepshow-style, as well as 26 sculptures made from coal dust.

Critics have argued for years about whether the award puts too much emphasis on hype over talent. Damien Hirst won in 1995 with a rotting cow's head and 1998 winner Chris Ofilie painted with elephant dung.

The 2005 winner Simon Starling, who dismantled a shed, made it into a boat, then turned it back into a shed again.

Stuckist artists, who campaign against "conceptualism" and favour traditional figurative painting, were to hold their traditional protest outside.

"The Turner Prize bears the same relationship to art as a pantomime horse does to show jumping," said the movement's co-founder Charles Thomson.

The Turner Prize 2009 exhibition will remain at Tate Britain until January 3.

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Stewart Lee (Gavin Evans)


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