Turner Prize judges opt for painter over conceptual artists

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The result may not placate those who condemn the Turner Prize as an insult to Joseph Mallord William's memory but this year's winner is at least a painter. From the choice of an installation artist, a video artist and a sculptor, the judges of Britain's most controversial arts prize last night plumped for Tomma Abts.

Abts, 38, a German-born artist who lives in London, is the first female painter to win the £25,000 award, sponsored by Gordon's gin, for her 11 abstract paintings in acrylic and oil, meticulously produced to the same measurements ­ 48cm by 38cm. A spokesman said: "The jury admired the rigour and consistency of Abts's painting, in which compelling images reveal their complexity slowly over time."

Abts, who came to the UK on a grant 12 years ago, said it was an honour to win the prize. "I think it's nice but every artist who's in the prize deserves to win," she said. "When I came in '95 there was much more energy here than Berlin, where I lived before. Now it's just my home."

Announcing the winner, Yoko Ono recalled how arriving in America in 1966 had opened up a new world for her. "In those days New York was the centre of the art world. Now it's London." The public had changed as well, she said. "They understand that artists affect the world maybe as much as politicians, sometimes more."

The Times described Abts, not entirely rudely, as "an artist for anoraks " but the Independent on Sunday said that the art world would be a better place were she to take the big cheque. She is the first painter to win the prize since Chris Ofili in 1998.

Also on the shortlist were Phil Collins, 36, a film-maker who lives in Glasgow and who examined reality television; Mark Titchner, 33, an installation artist who lives in London, and Rebecca Warren, 41, also London-based, who produces clay figures and, for the prize, cabinets of discarded objects. For the seventh year in a row, protesters opposed to the prize picketed the ceremony. Their anger was compounded by comments from Lynn Barber, a journalist on this year's judging panel. She said the process of judging had left her enthusiasm for contemporary art "seriously dampened".

Artists are shortlisted on the strength of exhibitions over the previous year, but many of the judges did not see the shows and recommended them from seeing work online, Barber said. She also said the process paid no attention to public nominations.

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