'Rotting head' artist on prize shortlist

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DAMIEN HIRST, the artist who caused a stir within the art world, and upset animal lovers, by showing a fly-infested rotting cow's head in a gallery, has been shortlisted for a prestigious visual arts award.

Although it was Mr Hirst himself who said, 'I sometimes feel I have nothing to say, I often want to communicate this,' the jury for the 1992 Turner Prize thought otherwise. The Tate Gallery yesterday announced that he is one of four candidates for the pounds 20,000 prize, awarded to a British artist under 50 'for an outstanding exhibition or other presentation of their work' in the last year.

Mr Hirst uses bits of dead animals as sculptural material, metaphors for life and death, art and reality. In the rotting cow's head piece, thousands of real maggots were contained within a box: as soon as they hatched, flying out to feed on the head in a pool of blood, they were killed on an 'insectocutor' hanging above the cow's head. With this piece Mr Hirst managed to arouse sympathy for the common housefly: hundreds could be seen limping around, on their last legs.

Also whittled down from 150 artists nominated by the public are Alison Wilding, 'for the subtle strength of her sculpture' - abstracts that sensitively combine materials as diverse as marble and rubber; Grenville Davey, 'for the continuing development of his sculpture' - abstract, even minimalist pieces that refer to familiar objects from the urban and industrial world; and David Tremlett, for exhibitions on the Continent of his drawings of stylised shapes superimposed with texts.

Bernard Jacobson, a leading contemporary art dealer, described the shortlist selection as 'so uninteresting'. Another, Annely Juda, said it was 'a very strange choice'. However the Tate is hardened to criticism: last year's selection drew vicious attacks, because three of the four nominees - Fiona Rae, Ian Davenport and Rachel Whiteread - were still in their twenties.

The 1992 jury members were Marie-Claude Beaud, director, Fondation Cartier pour l'Art Contemporain, Paris; Robert Hopper, director of the Henry Moore Sculpture Trust; Howard Karshan, representative of the Patrons of New Art; Sarah Kent, art critic of the London listings magazine Time Out; and Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate.

(Photographs omitted)