Turner Prize 2012: Why this year's competition proved there is a future for £25,000 art competition

Joanne Shurvell

Art expert Joanne Shurvell casts her eyes over this year's Turner Prize competition.

Video artist Elizabeth Price is the surprise winner of this year's Turner Prize. She beat fellow filmmaker Luke Fowler, performance artist Spartacus Chetwynd and the bookies' favourite, Paul Noble, to win the £25,000 prize.  Among the best-known past winners are Anish Kapoor, Grayson Perry, Gilbert and George, Rachel Whiteread and Damien Hirst.

The UK's most prestigious annual art award for a British visual artist under 50 is organised by the Tate gallery and was named after one of the most famous artists in its collection, the nineteenth-century landscape painter J.M.W. Turner.

However, while the Turner Prize has been no stranger to controversy since it began in 1984 and despite the popular perception of the Prize showing difficult, conceptual art, a scan through the work from past winners reveals a generous amount of sculpture, photography and indeed, painting.

But there's no escaping the fact that people associate the Turner Prize with Tracey Emin's unmade bed - even though she didn't actually win - Damien Hirst's exhibit of a dissected cow and calf in a vitrine of formaldehyde, 'Mother and Child Divided', and Martin Creed's installation, 'Work No. 227, the lights going on and off.'

This year's shortlist is a decent one and has been taken seriously by critics and the general public alike.

Spartacus Chetwynd, the first performance artist in the history of the Turner Prize, has probably received more column inches than the other artists on the shortlist not so much for her work but because her mother is an Academy-award winning production designer. She changed her name from Lali to that of a Roman gladiator, and she lives in a South London nudist colony. Chetwynd describes her colourful costumes, riotous performances and puppet shows as 'more like comedy or carnival rather than something that is professionalised; it has a fun rebellious energy.'

As an artist represented by Gagosian, one of the world's most influential private art galleries, Paul Noble was the most high profile artist on the shortlist. His intricate yet large-scale pencil drawings and marble sculptures of turds forming a vast fictional city called Nobson Newtown definitely deserve close inspection or many of the whimsical details will be missed.

Glaswegian Luke Fowler makes documentary films about public figures who he feels have been wrongly marginalised or overlooked. His 90-minute film is about the Scottish psychiatrist RD Laing and includes compelling, previously unseen archival footage of psychiatric sessions. The film is fascinating but an hour and a half is too long for a film shown in an art gallery where people tend to dip in and out of video work.

Three components make up 'The Woolworths Choir of 1979', Elizabeth Price's mesmerizing 18-minute prize-winning film. The first part of the film includes black-and-white images of 19th and early 20th century church architecture where a choir could perform and the second section draws on archival footage of musical performances, including 'Out in the Streets' from the 1960s girl band  the Shangri-Las.  Perhaps it's no coincidence that Price is a former pop singer herself, with the short-lived band of the 1980s, Talulah Gosh. The final part of the film shows news footage of a terrible historical event, a fire in a Manchester Woolworths where 10 people died.  Beautiful, gripping and disturbing, this is surely a worthy winner of Britain's most important art prize.

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