It is the prize for young artists whose previous nominees included a Brazilian who drew on bananas and a man who sewed balsa wood on to his bare feet.
So this year, onlookers expected the shortlist for Beck's Futures 2006 would only get more eccentric, given that it was to be chosen by a judging panel entirely of artists including the notoriously mischievous Chapman brothers and Martin Creed, who won the Turner Prize with a light turning on and off?
But contrary to expectation the judges announced a list yesterday of 13 artists aged 35 or younger - 12 solo artists and one team - in contention for the £20,000 prize, with not a wacky standout among them.
The judges, who also include Cornelia Parker, Yinka Shonibare and Gillian Wearing, selected Simon Popper, 28, who plans to reprint the first edition of James Joyce's Ulysses and a clutch of others whose inspiration is as heavyweight and diverse as 1960s American conceptualism and architectural linguistics.
All will now present an exhibition of their work at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London, which organises the prize, with shows taking place simultaneously at the CCA in Glasgow and the Arnolfini in Bristol.
Jens Hoffmann, the ICA's director of exhibitions and chairman of the judges, said this year's selection reflected the "incredible diversity of talent within the field of the visual arts in the UK".
Asking established artists, instead of curators, critics and other art professionals, to make the choices did seem to have made a difference to which artists were shortlisted, he said. "I felt there was a different form of involvement, a different form of closeness to the artists. The [submissions] weren't looked upon critically. It was much more, 'This is a great energy, this is very creative'. From peer to peer there was a very different way of looking at the work."
The artists included 10 from the UK, starting with a team, Lucy Stein and Jo Robertson, both 26, who met at the Glasgow School of Art and work together as Blood and Feathers. Their collaborative practice uses drawing, painting and performance "to investigate rock and roll mythology, the ultimate 'male domain'". They hail Courtney Love, widow of Kurt Cobain, as their heroine.
Four others originally come from overseas but are now based in the UK, as the rules of the competition require. They are Stefan Brüggemann, 30, an installation artist born in Mexico City, Flávia Müller Medeiros, 34, from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, who works in performance, photography and film, Seb Patane, 35, a painter from Italy, and Daniel Sinsel, 29, a painter from Germany.
Other artists include Olivia Plender, 28, an illustrator and installation artist, whose work includes The Masterpiece, a comic book about an unrecognised artistic genius trying to negotiate his way to success in the stifling atmosphere of an imaginary bohemia.
Matt Stokes, 32, uses film and sound to investigate rave culture, Jamie Shovlin, 27, has previously attracted attention for his work based on fake autobiographies, and Bedwyr Williams, 31, presents performances deemed indistinguishable from stand-up comedy.
Sue Tompkins, 34, is the identical twin sister of a previous Beck's Futures nominee, Hayley Tompkins. She is a performance poet. The final artist is Richard Hughes, 31, a sculptor and installation artist whose works are similar to three-dimensional trompe l'oeil.
Cornelia Parker said: "We decided on this shortlist not only because of their individual talents, but also because collectively they represented a snapshot of the incredible energy and range happening in art today. We also wanted to create a truly dynamic exhibition and given that it is occurring across three venues this year, it seemed a great opportunity to support a wider number of artists."
The exhibitions will open between 31 March and 13 April. There will be also a website where the public will be encouraged to vote for their favourite, which will count towards the final result. The winner will be announced on 2 May.
Examining the tension between reality and invention, his work questions how we map the world to understand it.
His work in film, installation, performance and drawing reveals a fascination with architectural linguistics.
He works extensively with language and how it can be employed to confuse, entertain, reflect and narrate.
His work combines a fascination for deception with a humorous and irreverent re-reading of recent cultural history.
FLAVIA MÜLLER MEDEIROS
Explores how language influences our perceptions using performance, photograph and film.
BLOOD AND FEATHERS - JO ROBERTSON AND LUCY STEIN
Partners who react against each other's work investigating rock and roll mythology.
The foundation of his work is a passion for contemporary music. His work typically involves modifying old photographs.
This author, writer and co-editor of Untitled magazine creates adult-orientated comic books inspired by Japanese manga.
Systematic approach to creating art reveals how elements of the world are often overlooked.
His experiments with materials include introducing foreign elements horse hair to canvas .
How events or informal movements, such as rave culture, bind people together.
Believing it is futile to try to determine where art begins and comedy leaves off, his performances are like stand-up routines.
Her solo live performances are exercises in free-thought performance poetry. She also makes collage-based work.Reuse content