The shock of the new Turner winner

Not a cow's brain in sight as veteran contender Richard Wright scoops prize. But is it art or is it wallpaper?
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The Independent Culture

Controversialists must be in despair. The pile of atomised jet engine didn't scoop the Turner Prize after all, even though it had been favourite to win the famously contentious award.

Instead, Richard Wright, who had been considered the "quietest" yet most established entrant in the flamboyant four-strong shortlist – which included works made from plastinated cows' brains and a whale skull – scooped the £25,000 award.

When asked what he planned to do with the prize, he said: "I can't give you an answer but like everybody else I have bills. I suspect I'll have to pay some of those with it." He added: "I'm shocked – is there another kind of reaction?"

At 49, Wright was the oldest of the four shortlisted artists, and fell just inside the 50-year age limit. He draws on gallery walls – often in situ – and his works are painted over or whitewashed at the end of his shows. He is listed by the powerful gallery owner Larry Gagosian as one of the most important artists alongside Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons.

His art is not usually preconceived: he looks at a space and sets to work. His meticulous, geometric drawings are largely temporary. For his prize entry, he covered the entire expanse of a wall at Tate Britain with a Baroque wallpaper design of geometrical patterns in gold leaf, employing his usual method of painting on walls and ceilings of architectural spaces. He has in the past said the "position of the work could be half of the work for me".

The Turner jury – which included Tate Britain director Stephen Deuchar and broadcaster Mariella Frostrup – said they "admired the profound originality and beauty of Wright's work".

Born in London, Wright's family moved to Scotland when he was young. He attended Edinburgh College of Art and now lives in Glasgow.

Best of '09: Were you impressed by Richard Wright's work? Was the Turner Prize show the most memorable arts event of 2009? We want to hear about your favourite cultural moments of the year. In the comments form below or at nominate your favourite - in film, music, theatre, comedy, dance or visual arts - with a brief explanation as to why it tops your list and we'll print a selection in The Independent Readers' Review of 2009.