Shed beats buttocks and bird for top UK art prize

LONDON - A weatherbeaten shed fought off a pink hummingbird and a pair of buttocks today to land the Turner prize, one of the art world's most hotly debated awards.

Simon Starling won the coveted 25,000-pound ($61,067) prize with "Shedboatshed" - a shed he turned into a boat, floated down the Rhine and then rebuilt as a shed again.

Starling, who also pitched for the Turner with an electric bicycle he rode across a Spanish desert, explained to anyone baffled by their artistic value that his works were "the physical mainfestation of my thought process".

In awarding the ever-contentious award to Starling, the judges said: "He transforms and reframes existing objects using a rigorous process of research to develop his sculptural installations." Gillian Carnegie had been favourite with the bookmakers to land this year's Turner for the series known as her "bum paintings" - pictures of her own bottom.

Another hotly fancied candidate was Jim Lambie for the garishly painted bird ornaments he found in a junk shop and laid out on a technicolour floor that looked like a zany Sixties happening.

The shortlist was completed by Darren Almond's four-screen video installation of his grandmother returning to the seaside ballroom where she danced on her honeymoon.

The Turner invariably stirs controversy and this year was no exception, with figurative artists fiercely opposed to the prize staging a colourful demonstration outside London's Tate Britain museum.

"The Tate is run by a self-serving clique who hide behind secretiveness," said Charles Thomson, co-founder of the Stuckist movement.

Thomson, heading protesters dressed in elephant and monkey masks, demanded Tate Director Nicholas Serota's resignation over the Tate's decision to spend 705,000 pounds on a work by one of its own trustees, artist Chris Ofili.

"The real prize at the Tate is becoming a trustee. It's worth far more money," he said.

Ofili won the 1998 Turner with a Virgin Mary figure made of elephant dung.

Every Turner shortlist provokes a heated "Is It Art?" debate, and the show attracts up to 100,000 visitors annually.

In 1995 Damien Hirst won with a pickled sheep. In 2003, transvestite potter Grayson Perry wore a frilly purple dress to accept his award.

Artist Tony Kaye once tried to submit a homeless steel worker as his entry, while pop superstar Madonna notoriously swore live on television when presenting the prize in 2001.

- REUTERS

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