Revamp gives public a vote for Beck's art prize

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The Independent Online

The £20,000 Beck's Futures award for emerging artists is being revamped to give the public a vote alongside the judges who include the Chapman brothers and two former winners of the Turner Prize.

Ekow Eshun, the new artistic director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts, said the aim was to make the awards more "relevant, inclusive and generally inspiring". "We just wanted to scale up the ambition of the prize," he said.

Eight curators and writers have scoured the UK in search of the best new talent under the age of 35 but, in a rare move for an art prize, it is artists who will produce the shortlist.

Jake and Dinos Chapman, Martin Creed, Cornelia Parker, Yinka Shonibare and Gillian Wearing, all previous Turner Prize nominees or - in the case of Creed and Wearing - winners, are this year's judges. Their Beck's Futures shortlist will be unveiled next month.

However, the public will get a say in who wins. The artist winning the most public votes will get a vote equal in weight to that of each of the judges.

For the first time, the Beck's Futures exhibition of work by the shortlisted artists will take place simultaneously at three venues, the ICA in London, the CCA in Glasgow and a third gallery, to be finalised, in Bristol. Previously it has toured after opening in London.

Mr Eshun said: "This concurrent viewing is not only a first for Beck's Futures but a first for any major exhibition and will allow even more people to engage with the art before taking part in the public vote. We hope to create the most widely visited art prize in the country."

There will be also a detailed website profiling the artists and their work.

The prize was launched by Beck's and the ICA in 1999 with the aim of supporting and exhibiting emerging UK-based artists at a critical point in their careers. Creed said it was important that such exhibitions be encouraged in Britain.

Shonibare said he had been desperate to be famous when he was younger so he thought it would be nice to help other people be famous. "And it's nice to help younger artists get rich."

Wearing, who has judged the Young Contemporaries national touring exhibition, said she enjoyed the process. "Some things are obviously unique pieces of work and some things challenge what you do or don't like."

Rosalind Nashashibi, who won the prize two years ago, said it had been a good platform for her work. "And financially it made a big difference. I didn't have to worry about money for a while, so I was able to get on with focusing on my work."

Saskia Olde-Wolbers, who won the Beck's Futures prize last year, said: "You get a lot more attention [after winning]."

The exhibitions will open at the end of March and the winner of the £20,000 award will be announced on 2 May. The other shortlisted artists will share £18,000 prize money.

Beck's, who have been involved in sponsoring contemporary art projects since 2000, will also fund three art student bursaries, each of £2,500.

The Independent, with ArtReview magazine, is the media sponsor of the 2006 Beck's Futures prize.