Provocative posters win Saatchi's 'art idol' contest

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Meet the heir to Tracey Emin's throne. Sarah Maple, a 22-year-old Muslim from Brighton, is crowned the best of the new young British artists, The Independent on Sunday can reveal. She beat 20 contenders in a competition organised by the art collector Charles Saatchi and judged by the sculptor Antony Gormley and the gallery owner Sadie Coles.

Lord Saatchi has enlisted the aid of established artists to select the winners of the first "art idol" competition. Of the four finalists, three already have already been snapped up by collectors.

Maple's work features photographs of herself in politically provocative situations. The "Vote for Me" series, which won her the competition from an initial entry of hundreds of final-year students, shows her dressed as a Playboy bunny or in hijab with the slogan "Vote for Me – or else you're sexist/homophobic".

Gormley described her work as "direct and playful". He added: "She is playing out, in a way, notions of Western freedom of choice in terms of identity. It's very emotive stuff. She is using the female notion of appropriateness to explain political and personal realism." Maple's work now belongs to Channel 4, which co-sponsored the New Sensations competition.

She said yesterday: "I did a mock political campaign. My work takes the mick out of political correctness gone mad. I got an angry response from some people. It was good to get a reaction, but I do think PC is daft. I think a lot of people are trying to make sure that nobody gets offended.

"I'll probably move on from that now. I don't want to be the one who just does work about Islam. A lot of my work is about identity."

The competition was open to art students in their final year of study. Hundreds of entries were whittled down to 20.

The art collector Anita Zabludowicz, also a judge, has bought the entries of two of the other four finalists, Marcus Lanyon, 26, and Mark Melvin, 28, both from London. "I was incredibly surprised by the excellence of the work. Their art seemed to me to be of museum quality." The entry of the fourth finalist, Mie Olise Kjaergaard, 33, has been bought by a private collector.