Turner Prize Winners: Where Are They Now?

Several people can be seen admiring a group of artworks, including sculptures and thousands of pennies on the ground.Image © Creative Commons via Wikimedia Commons / Installation view of the Millbank Turner Prize 2016 exhibition
Joe Syer

Joe Syer, Co-Founder & Specialist[email protected]

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On December 5th, the winner of the 2023 Turner Prize – one of the most prestigious and influential awards in the British art scene – will be announced in a glamorous ceremony. The prize has become a cornerstone for recognising and celebrating contemporary British artists. From its inception to the present day, the Turner has highlighted emerging talents while provoking lively debates and controversies, reflecting the dynamic and often challenging nature of contemporary art. Turner Prize winners and nominees have gone on to significantly influence the art world, shape the Prize’s legacy and effect transformative change in both the British and international art landscapes.

A painting by J.M.W. Turner of a ship sailing at sunset, heading towards the viewer. The Fighting Temeraire Tugged to Her Last Berth to Be Broken Up © J.M.W. Turner 1838

A History of the Turner Prize

The Turner Prize, named in honour of the English painter J.M.W. Turner, is an esteemed annual prize bestowed upon a British visual artist. First awarded in 1984, it has emerged as one of the world's most prominent art honours, frequently stirring controversy and debate – indicative of its influence in challenging and engaging with the realm of contemporary art. Initially established by the Patrons of New Art, a collective of collectors and philanthropists under the directorship of Alan Bowness, the Turner sought to foster public interest in contemporary art and recognise new advancements in the British art scene. It originally had an age limit of 50 in order to specifically award up and coming artists, but this restriction was removed in 1991, thereby accommodating a wider spectrum of artists and reflecting the evolving dynamics of artistic careers. The award grants a cash prize of £40,000 - £25,000 for the winner, and £5,000 to the other nominees.

In 2001, the format of the prize underwent a significant change, with the introduction of a public exhibition of the nominees' work at the Tate Britain before the announcement of the winner, thus enhancing public engagement. The Turner's response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 marked another notable alteration in its tradition: rather than selecting a single winner, ten bursaries were distributed to a more diverse group of artists, a decision that reflected the changing circumstances and the need for wider support in the arts community during the crisis. The Prize continues to be a significant barometer of contemporary British art, consistently reflecting and occasionally provoking shifts and debates in the wider art world. Its history is characterised by moments of innovation, controversy, and a constant reassessment of the essence of modern art.

An image of Emin's bed, unmade and surrounded by debris including a bottle of vodka, such as condoms, underwear with menstrual blood stains, and functional objects, including a pair of slippers.Image © Creative Commons via Flickr / My Bed © Tracey Emin 1998

Art and Provocation: Turner Prize Controversies

Since its inception, the award has been at the forefront of artistic innovation, often blurring the lines between traditional aesthetics and modern conceptual art. The Prize has been instrumental in spotlighting emerging trends and artists in the British art scene, but not without controversy. It has been subject to criticism for elitism, obscurity, and a perceived preference for shock value over artistic merit. Nevertheless, it retains a crucial role in elevating the profiles of many artists and in bringing contemporary art into the broader public discourse. Its ability to stir debate and provoke thought within the art world and beyond is one of the most fascinating aspects of the Turner Prize. By championing avant-garde and often unconventional art, the Turner has repeatedly challenged public perceptions of what art can and should be. This has led to numerous debates about the nature and purpose of contemporary art, and the controversies have often not been just about the artworks but also about the evolving role of art in society.

Throughout its history, the Turner Prize has seen winners whose works have ignited public and critical debate. The reaction to the exhibitions and winners often reflects a broader conversation about the direction of contemporary art. While some see the prize as a platform for innovation and artistic bravery, others view it as particularly indulgent of shock value. Sensational media coverage can amplify the provocative nature of the artworks, often overshadowing the artistic intent and merit. The selecting committee itself has also been subject to criticism for largely awarding white, male artists. Only 29% of Turner Prize winners have been women while the first woman of colour, Lubaina Himid, only won in 2017.

A large-scale, colourful mural by the artists Gilbert and George in New York City. It shows several renditions of the artist's faces in several sizes and colours.Image © Creative Commons via Flickr / Highline Mural © Gilbert and George 2013

Turner Prize Winners: 1984-2022

1984: The inaugural Turner Prize was awarded to Malcolm Morley, whose win generated some controversy due to the fact the artist had not lived in Britain for several decades at this point. The year is notable for the fact that all nominees went on to win the prize in the future. Morley’s winning paintings were inspired by a trip to Greece, and he went on to continue to have a successful career until his death in 2018. He has been the subject of retrospective exhibitions at the Tate Liverpool and the Ashmolean Museum.

1985: Howard Hodgkin won the prize that year for his painting A Small Thing But My Own. Following his win, Hodgkin was knighted and continued his prolific career. The Yale Center for British Art has an extensive collection of his work, which was also the subject of a major exhibition at Tate Britain in 2006. Hodgkin died in 2017.

1986: The artist duo Gilbert & George were awarded the prize following their previous nomination in 1984. Known for their performance art, the pair continue to be influential figures in the world of contemporary art. In April 2023, they opened the Gilbert & George Centre in London to showcase their work in regular exhibitions.

1987: That year, the Turner went to Richard Deacon, whose abstract sculptures are crafted from everyday materials and often allude to anatomical functions. He was made a CBE in 1999 and represented Wales at the Venice Biennale in 2007.

1988: Artist Tony Cragg won that prize that year. Cragg was awarded a solo exhibition and represented Britain at the Venice Biennale that same year. His work has been exhibited in several notable institutions, including the Royal Academy London, the Pompidou and the Louvre in Paris and Scottish National Gallery.

1989: Richard Long was controversially awarded the prize after being nominated three times previously, winning for his lifetime achievements as opposed to a single piece. His work has placed sculpture within the fields of performance and conceptual art, and is typically made with natural elements such as mud, rocks and earth. In 2009, Tate Britain organised a retrospective exhibition of his work.

1990: No prize was awarded this year due to lack of sponsorship.

1991: Anish Kapoor received the Turner for a piece done in sandstone and pigment. Since then, he has become notorious for his public art in polished stainless steel; notably, his work Cloud Gate has been nicknamed “The Bean” and is a postcard of the city of Chicago. He has also stoked controversy by his exclusive licensing of Vantablack, widely considered one of the darkest pigments ever created.

1992: Grenville Davey won for his work HAL, which included two abstract steel forms. Although he primarily worked in sculpture, Davey also produced a series of prints including etchings and screenprints. He died in February 2022.

1993: Rachel Whiteread was the first woman winner for her temporary sculpture House, which lasted for eleven weeks. Although she initially refused to accept the prize money, she eventually donated t to other artists in need and to the housing charity Shelter. In 2001, she became the third artist to occupy the Fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square. Whiteread was appointed CBE in 2006 and DBE in 2019. Her work is in the permanent collection of the MoMA and she has also produced works for Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall.

1994: The prize went to Antony Gormley, famous for his large-scale metal sculptures such as the Angel Of The North. He is one of the most popular living artists in Britain, with works in places such as the University of Cambridge, Tate Modern and Imperial College London. He was also commissioned to occupy the Fourth Plinth in 2009, where he presented One & Other.

1995: The winner was Damien Hirst, for his infamous work Mother And Child, Divided. Since then, Hirst has remained one of the most influential and controversial artists of our time, notable for his formaldehyde installations, Spot paintings, ventures into NFTs and his auction Beautiful Inside My Head Forever. He is the richest living artist, with a fortune estimated at over £300 million.

1996: This marked the first time a video artist won the Turner, with Douglas Gordon being awarded. The next year, Gordon won the Premio 2000 at the Venice Biennale, and his work was shown at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival.

1997: This year was notable for being the only time in history the Prize had an all-female list of nominees. Gillian Wearing was awarded the prize for her video 60 Minutes Silence. Wearing was appointed an OBE in 2011 and in 2018 she was commissioned to create a statue of suffragette Millicent Fawcett, now in London’s Parliament Square.

1998: For the first time in twelve years, the Prize was awarded to a painter. Chris Ofili became known for his use of elephant dung in his work, which created significant conversation at the time. He was made a CBE in 2017, and his works have been exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum in New York and the Tate.

1999: The prize was given to director Steve McQueen, who has since also received an Academy Award and two BAFTAs. He was made a CBE in 2011, and was the first black filmmaker to win the Oscar for Best Picture for his film 12 Years a Slave.

2000: Photographer Wolfgang Tillmans was the first non-British person to be declared the winner. He has had retrospectives staged at institutions such as the MoMA and Tate Modern, and was named one of the most influential people in the world by Time Magazine in 2023.

The facade of Christchurch Art Gallery in New Zealand, adorned with colourful neon letters that read "Everything is going to be alright"Everything Is Going To Be Alright in Christchurch, New Zealand © Martin Creed 2015

2001: In a classic instance of the Turner awarding an artist defying traditional notions of art, Martin Creed's installation Work No. 227: The Lights Going On And Off was declared the winner. Another artist, Jacqueline Crofton, threw eggs at it in protest. Since then, Creed has continued to be a high-profile artist: his Work No. 1197 was commissioned to officially announce the start of the 2012 Summer Olympics, and his series Everything Is Going To Be Alright has graced many of the most iconic facades in Britain.

2002: The award was given to multimedia Keith Tyson, in a year particularly full of controversy. Tyson is mostly recognised for his Artmachine, which uses a mix of computer programmes, flow charts and books in order to generate chance combinations of words and ideas that are then translated into artworks. His work has been exhibited at the Barbican, the Louisiana Museum in Denmark, the Pompidou in Paris and Tate Britain.

2003: The artist Grayson Perry was declared the winner for his pots decorated with sexual imagery. This marked the first time the prize was awarded to a ceramics artist. He is one of the most successful living British artists today, having held solo exhibitions at the Barbican, the British Museum, the Serpentine and the Andy Warhol Museum. His work is also in the permanent collection of the Stedelijk in Amsterdam, the Tate and the V&A.

2004: Jeremy Deller won the prize that year, which was the first time the nominees also got some of the award money. Like the winning work Memory Bucket, Deller’s work is often collaborative, and has a strong political message. He has had solo exhibitions at the Pompidou, the Palais de Tokyo and the Hayward Gallery.

2005: Conceptual artist Simon Starling won for a work that was a shed that the artist converted into a boat, sailed down the River Rhine and turned back into a shed. In 2003, he represented Scotland at the Venice Biennale. Starling’s work is in the permanent collection of the Tate Modern, the Guggenheim, Moderna Museet and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.

2006: The winner was Tomma Abts, an abstract oil painter with a distinctly retro aesthetic. Most recently, she has begun to translate her work into prints. Her works have been exhibited at the Kunsthalle Basel and David Zwirner’s galleries throughout the world.

2007: Mark Wallinger was given the award that year, largely because of his installation State Britain – a recreation of an anti-war display in Parliament Square. He had been previously nominated for the award in 1995. He was the first artist to ever occupy the Fourth Plinth between 1998-2000, with his work Ecce Homo inaugurating the initiative. He had a solo show at the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2001, created an artwork to celebrate the London Underground’s 150th anniversary in 2013 and unveiled a sculpture at the London School of Economics in 2019.

Youtube © 47 Film / Lowlands © Susan Philipsz 2010

2008: That year, Mark Leckey was the winner thanks to his work in found and video art, especially his exhibition Industrial Light and Magic. His work has been exhibited at the MoMA and the Guggenheim, and are in the collections of the Tate and the Pompidou.

2009: Richard Wright was given the Turner for the temporary golden fresco he created on the walls of Tate Britain. The artist usually decorates architectural spaces with intricate patterns and designs, which tend to be short-lived. In recent years, he has created permanent works for the collections of museums like the MoMA, the Tate and the Scottish National Gallery of Art.

2010: Susan Philipsz was the first to ever win for an aural work: her sound installation Lowlands was created by her singing sea shanty songs under three different bridges in Glasgow. In 2013 she was included in the MoMA’s first ever major exhibition of sound art, and in 2016 one of her works was exhibited at the Hirshhorn Museum. She was given an OBE in 2014.

2011: This year had the most popular Turner Prize exhibition, which brought in a record number of visitors. Martin Boyce won for his installation Do Words Have Voices, a contemporary reimagination of an autumnal urban park. His works continue to be exhibited around the world.

2012: Artist Elizabeth Price was awarded the prize for her video installations, which can take up to a year to make. Her works have recently been exhibited at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh and the Kosovo National Gallery.

2013: Laure Prouvost won the first Turner Prize given outside of England. Her work combines installation, collage and film to shed light on the humorousness of misunderstandings. In 2018 she created an installation for the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, and she continues to create works that are exhibited all over the world.

2014: The winner of the prize was Duncan Campbell, a video artist. He was selected because of his work It For Others, a 50-minute video that reflects on African art, the IRA and Marxism

2015: The collective of artists Assemble was awarded for their work in the fields of architecture, design and art – especially in Liverpool’s Granby Four Streets, where the group revitalised an underserved area. The choice was controversial, since the collective largely consider themselves to be architects, not artists. They continue to create revolutionary architectural designs and concepts.

The large-scale realistic sculptures of three Caribbean fruits, placed on the ground in the middle of a square in London.Image © Creative Commons via Flickr / Custard Apple (Annonaceae), Breadfruit (Moraceae) and Soursop (Annonaceae) © Veronica Ryan 2021

2016: The Turner was given to Helen Marten, whose work includes prints, sculptures and written elements, and uses both handmade and found objects. Her work is in the permanent collection of the MoMA and the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo.

2017: Lubaina Himid was the first woman of colour to win the Turner, and her art addresses questions of cultural history and identity. She was made a CBE in 2018, and her work is in the collections of institutions such as the Tate, the V&A and Walker Art Gallery.

2018: Notably, all of this year’ shortlist were video artists. Amongst these, Charlotte Prodger was selected as the winner, for her work in the exhibitions BRIDGIT and Stoneymollan Trail. She then participated at the 2019 Venice Biennale.

2019: This year, the four nominees – Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Helen Cammock, Oscar Murillo and Tai Shani – requested to be considered as a single group and were jointly awarded the prize. All artists worked with subjects of civil rights and social justice and, despite never having met each other before, the artists wanted to display their ideals of “commonality, multiplicity and solidarity.” All of the winners continue to create and exhibit their art around the world.

2020: The award was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The money was instead distributed between 10 bursaries, who received £10,000 each.

2021: Array Collective, a group of 11 artists and activists were awarded, becoming the first Northern Irish winners of the Turner. Their immersive installation The Druithaib’s Ball was a recreation of a forbidden pub, filled with textile art and assorted objects with a distinctly queer aesthetic. A video with a snippet of the project went viral on TikTok due to a wholesome interaction with a member of the public, creating the meme “I like it, Picasso.”

2022: The sculptor Veronica Ryan was last year’s winner, praised for her “poetic” work, created using a wide variety of materials. In 2021, she became the first black female artist to have a public sculpture in the UK, with her work Custard Apple (Annonaceae), Breadfruit (Moraceae) and Soursop (Annonaceae) paying homage to the Windrush generation.

2023: The 2023 Turner Prize winner will be announced on December 5th. The nominees are Jesse Darling, Ghislaine Leung, Rory Pilgrim and Barbara Walker.

Notable Nominees

The Turner Prize has often acted as a launchpad for nominees, propelling them to significant success and notoriety. Interestingly, in some cases, artists who did not win the prize have gone on to achieve fame and acclaim that, at least in the eyes of some, overshadows that of the actual winners. This phenomenon is evident in the case of Patrick Caulfield, for example, who was nominated in 1987 and is renowned for his bold and graphic paintings. His work continues to be celebrated for its distinctive style, combining traditional subjects with modern design elements. His legacy in the art world remains strong, with his influence evident in the work of subsequent generations of artists.

Lucian Freud was nominated twice, both in 1988 and 1989, and was already an established artist at the time. Known for his intense and often sombre portraits, Freud's legacy has only grown since his nominations. His works are highly sought after and his contribution to the realm of portraiture is unparalleled.

Paula Rego was also a nominee in 1989, and is another artist whose fame has eclipsed many of her contemporaries. Her unique narrative style often explores themes of feminism, folklore and psychology, and has garnered widespread acclaim. Rego's work has been influential in challenging traditional norms in art and society, making her one of the most significant figures in modern British art.

Tracey Emin, nominated in 1999, is one of the most famous artists associated with the Turner Prize, despite not winning. Her provocative and autobiographical works – such as My Bed – have sparked considerable public and critical interest. Emin's art, known for its raw and emotional honesty, has secured her place as a prominent figure in contemporary art.

David Shrigley, nominated in 2013, is known for his humorous and often absurd illustrations, sculptures and texts. Despite not winning, Shrigley's work has enjoyed widespread popularity, transcending the typical confines of the art world and entering pop culture. His distinctive style has made him a favourite among art enthusiasts and the general public alike.

The success of these artists highlights an interesting aspect of the Turner Prize: while the award itself is an acknowledgment of artistic achievement, it does not always predict the long-term impact and acclaim an artist will receive.

An oil painting by Barbara Walker, showing a black woman sitting on the floor having her hair braided by another black woman who is sitting on a cream couch.Image © Creative Commons via Flickr / The Sitter © Barbara Walker 2002

The Future of the Turner Prize

The future of the Turner Prize depends on its continued evolution and significance in the art world, especially on its 40th anniversary next year. As it adapts to the ever-changing ideals of contemporary art, the prize seems poised to remain a crucial platform for showcasing and recognising innovative British artists. Its legacy of provoking public debate, celebrating artistic diversity and challenging conventional aesthetics ensures its role as a dynamic and influential force in shaping art trends and dialogues. Moving forward, the prize should continue to reflect the complexities and nuances of modern society through art, fostering new perspectives and conversations. If doing so, the Turner Prize is set to maintain its status as a barometer of contemporary artistic expression, capturing the attention of artists, critics and art lovers for decades more to come.

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