On November 6, 1984, the first Turner Prize was awarded by the Tate to Malcolm Morley, over fellow nominees that included sculptor Richard Deacon, collaborators Gilbert & George, painter Howard Hodgkin, and land artist Richard Long. Named after J. M. W. Turner, the prize is awarded to the U.K.’s “greatest living artist,” and in the 28 years since its inception it has come under intense scrutiny, incurring both praise and backlash. Jonathan Jones, art critic for The Guardian and a former Turner judge, once called the prize “genuinely unique and formidable,” while notoriously vehement critic Robert Hughes has called it “a soggy, flaccid, in-group exercise in an art world that has run out of steam.” The 1984 selection of Morley was a controversial one; although he was English-born, he had been living in the U.S. for more than two decades. Morley himself was critical of the award, claiming that a “horse race” for art was “disgusting”. His antipathy caused him to stay home for the ceremony—but not to refuse the £10,000 reward.
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