Turner Prize: A look at past winners of the iconic award

November 29, 2017 3 min read

Turner Prize: A look at past winners of the iconic award

An enormous pair of golden buttocks, a toy train set and a suit made from bricks.

These were just some of the "cheeky" 2017 entries.

Image courtesy of Nils Jorgensen

The Turner prize is an annual prize awarded to a British visual artist of under 50 years of age and is credited to artists who have made significant contributions to art over the twelve prior months. The award is named after famous English painter J. M. W. Turner and has successfully rose to a high status within the art community since its inception in 1984. The prestigious award ceremony is traditionally held at Tate Britain and is organised by the Tate gallery. At The Light Yard we appreciate the exceptional British talents whose successful bids overcame the competition to win the award. 

Malcolm Morley

Image courtesy of Jason Schmidt

English painter Malcolm Morley was the winner of the first Turner prize in 1984. Morley was awarded for his contributions to art such as his “Day Fishing in Heraklion” (1983) and “Cradle of Civilization with American Woman” (1982). Malcolm was surprised when he received the award as he was living in the United States and had been since 1958 when he fell in love the abstract impressionist paintings. Morley started painting whilst in prison for breaking and entering making him a prime example of how true art does not discriminate and how the turner prize awards people based exclusively on the merit of their art.


Martin Creed

Image courtesy of Martin Creed 

Martin creed took the award in 2001 with his “work 227: the lights going on and off”. The piece consisted of an empty room which was lit for five seconds and then plunged into darkness for five seconds. The lights continued to turn on and off with five second intervals. The modern lighting installation brought controversy after winning the prize with many discrediting it and debating whether it should even be classed as art whilst many other were proud to see people’s understanding of contemporary art maturing.

The installation exhibited the sharp contrast between a lit an unlit room and how lights, even in their simplest form can make a design and give life to creations which are otherwise nothing but faint outlines lost in the darkness.


Damien Hirst


Image courtesy of Damien Hirst 

Damien Hirst is one of the most recognised names when it comes to the Turner prize after he claimed the award in 1995 with his installation entitled “Mother and Child, Divided”. The piece was of two cows, mother and calf, cut in half and displayed in glass tanks. Upon receiving the award Hirst said, “It’s amazing what you can do with an E in A Level art, a twisted imagination and a chainsaw.”


Whilst his work is not to everyone’s taste he is living proof that art is made in the heart and that it does not necessarily require formal qualifications, it just requires imagination and passion. No matter what the creation is be it a painting, modern contemporary lighting or an animal sawed in half art is an expression of self, something that you do not need qualifications to create.


Wolfgang Tillmans

Image courtesy of Wolfgang Tillmans 

Wolfgang Tillmans is a German born artist who claimed the Turner prize in 2000. He won the award for his contribution to British art as he was based in London. Wolfgang was the first non-British winner of the award as well as the first photographer to win the prize. Wolfgang’s contributions were a range of his exhibitions throughout 1999 including an exhibition in Interim Art, London.  Tillmans’ work is known for challenging the genres of still life, documentary and portraiture and his more recent works can be seen in his Tate Modern exhibition this year. 


Richard Long


Image courtesy of Richard Long 

Richard Long is a British artist with the record for being short listed for the Turner Prize four times including in 1989 when he won the award for his image of a water line created by walking upon damp grass. Long’s work is testament to his love of nature. His work is also exempt of complication being created through his appreciation for the simplicity of basic shapes and has gone on to make him one of the most recognised British artists. Long was also rewarded a CBE in 2013 for contributions to art.


The turner Prize is one of the most iconic prizes in the world of art and the aforementioned artists are just a few of the many outstanding artists to have received the award since its introduction in 1984.


Useful links

The Tate Modern 

The Tate Britain 

The National Gallery