For adults only: Death and sex dominate Turner Prize

This year's Turner Prize exhibition opens to the public today with more than the prerequisite quota of shocking sex scenes.

The Chapman brothers, Jake and Dinos, hogged the limelight at yesterday's preview with a display featuring a bronze sculpture of a pair of blow-up dolls engaged in oral sex alongside a more predictable collection of works inspired by Goya, the master whose art they have long admired.

But the warning at the opening of the show at Tate Britain in London, that some of the exhibits might be unsuitable for children under the age of 16, was not for the Chapman brothers alone. A close analysis of the subversive ceramics of the transvestite Grayson Perry, 43 - whose alter ego Claire features prominently in his work - reveals scenes of sadomasochism which would not have disappointed the ancient Greeks whose works he re-interprets for the 21st century. Other vases explore themes of child abuse and the dark side of family life.

Stephen Deuchar, the director of Tate Britain, said this year's £20,000 Turner Prize, Britain's foremost contemporary art award, was down to a very strong shortlist with each of the four artists taking on major themes. "There is a superficial joyousness about many of these works but the artists are not afraid of some of the big themes of life or death and the transience of existence. It does make for a show that feels quite weighty."

Anya Gallaccio, 40, an artist renowned for working with unconventional materials, reworks recent exhibits for her display. A huge wall of red gerberas sandwiched between huge panes of glass, first produced in 1991, will gradually decompose during the three months of the exhibition as will a separate work featuring apples hung on a stark bronze tree.

Willie Doherty, 44, the fourth contender, presents a work deeply rooted in the dark landscape of the politics of Northern Ireland. Re-Run is a video work in which a man is seen running across the Craigavon bridge across the river dividing the Catholic and Protestant communities of his native Londonderry. On the opposing screen, another video shows the back of the man. The effect is unnerving.

Among the other works shown by Dinos Chapman, 41, and Jake, 37, is Insult to Injury , with which the brothers provoked controversy by covering a set of Goya etchings with graffiti.

The winner of the Turner Prize will be announced on Channel 4, which is sponsoring it, on 7 December. The exhibition runs until 18 January.

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