The Turner Prize, first awarded in 1984, provides an opportunity for the entire British citizenry to voice its strong feelings about contemporary art.
Each year, a panel of judges determines a short list of four worthy British artists—either born or based in the U.K.—who have staged exemplary exhibitions or works around the globe. Then, works by the short-listed artists go on view to the public in an exhibition at Tate Britain
or another U.K. institution. After the panel makes their final selection in early December, the victor is splashily announced via a televised ceremony, with populist celebs like Madonna presenting the honors. Turner Prize winners receive a fairly modest £25,000 ($32,000) bundle of cash—but they also reap the priceless benefits of exposure and prestige.
This sort of public frenzy can seem strange to Americans, since we literally have nothing like it on our shores. Our fancy arts-related awards might come with bigger jackpots—consider the so-called MacArthur “Genius” grant, which bestows a mighty $625,000 upon its recipients—but none of them manage to generate the same level of engagement, discussion, and argument.