Turner winner calls it `egg and spoon race' of art world

WHEN THE winner of this year's Turner Prize is announced next Tuesday, he or she might expect that the pounds 20,000 prize money and the shower of praise from fellow artists will change their life for ever.

The reality, according to several past winners whose thoughts on the prize have been gathered for a retrospective exhibition on the Turner, is rather different. Of the 15 artists who have won the most prestigious British art prize since it was set up in 1984, most seemed unimpressed.

Richard Long, whose work was based on his relationship with the landscape, said of his 1989 win: "Remember 1989, one memory among thousands. Smile. Water under the bridge."

Douglas Gordon, who won in 1996, the year after Damien Hirst's dead animals caused considerable controversy, said as soon as one person won everyone simply moved on to the following year.

Malcolm Morley, the winner in 1984, said: "I had not the slightest thought about the prize on the day the winner was announced."

The Turner Prize was established by the Patrons of the New Art, a group set up in 1982 to assist in the acquisition of new art for the Tate Gallery in London, and it was hoped that its status would come to rival that of the Booker Prize for literature.

In its infancy, it was widely criticised by those who thought the link between art dealers and those on the shortlist was too close. Others complained that the same old faces were nominated each year but never won.

The exhibition, which opens at Artsway, in Lymington, Hampshire, today and runs until 23 January, includes work by all 15 winners but some - such as George and Gilbert, who won in 1986, and Hirst (1995) - did not bother to comment. Perhaps Tracey Emin, whose stained bed is expected to win, and who is renowned for baring her soul, will have a more extravagant response.

WHAT NATIONAL ACCLAIM HAS MEANT TO FIVE ARTISTS

Howard Hodgkin, 1985 winner

"There were no one-man shows. I showed two paintings, one A Small Thing but My Own - a tiny political gesture, but nobody seemed to notice it."

Richard Deacon, 1987 winner

"I found [shortlisting] quite disturbing. It made a difference to the way my work was perceived [but] I hated the fact it sometimes made me arrogant."

Antony Gormley, 1993 winner

"[The prize] has engaged an increasingly eager public. It has made a huge contribution to the visibility of contemporary art."

Douglas Gordon, 1996 winner

"It's like a kind of kids' sports day. When it gets under way you are more concerned about falling on your arse in front of your friends than winning."

Gillian Wearing, 1997 winner

"The Turner Prize has been beneficial as an enabling tool which has allowed me to extend my practice and concentrate on making new pieces of work."

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