London-based New Zealand artist Luke Willis Thompson is in the running for one of the world's most prestigious annual art prizes.

Thompson was today announced as one of four artists in contention for the 2018 Turner Prize, started in 1984, named after acclaimed 19th century artist J.M.W. Turner and awarded to a British artist for an outstanding presentation of their work. The other three contenders are collective Forensic Architecture, Naeem Mohaiemen and Charlotte Prodger.

British can mean an artist working primarily in Britain or an artist born there but working anywhere and the prize aims to promote public discussion about contemporary art. Previous winners include Damien Hirst, Grayson Perry and Tracey Emin and the award has often proved controversial.

Hirst's The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living featured a shark in formaldehyde and My Bed was a dishevelled bed by Tracey Emin. While it is judged by an independent panel of art experts, the prize is often presented by a celebrity with Sir Richard Attenborough, Paul Smith, Yoko Ono, Mario Testino and Madonna among previous presenters.

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An image from
An image from "autoportrait", Luke Willis Thompson's moving image work nominated for the Turner Prize. Photo / Andy Keate

If Thompson wins, he could receive a £25,000 first prize (nearly $NZ49,339) or £5000 ($9863) as a runner-up. He has been nominated for autoportrait, a powerful moving image work made about and in collaboration with Diamond Reynolds, who broadcast the moments immediately after the fatal shooting of her partner, Philando Castile, by a police officer during a routine traffic-stop in Minnesota in July, 2016.

The artwork, described as a "sister-image" to Reynolds' video, is a silent portrait of Reynolds on 35mm black and white film and shown at the Chisenhale Gallery in London. Commentators said it reflected Thompson ongoing questions about race, class and social inequality.

Four years ago and then aged 26, Thompson became the youngest artist ever to win New Zealand's Walters Prize. Inthisholeonthisislandwhereiam took viewers on a taxi ride to an old house belonging to Thompson's mother.

The international judge, Charles Esche, director of the Van Abbemuseum in the Netherlands and curator of this year's Sao Paulo Biennale, said Thompson's work cut "through the protocols of the exhibition system like a knife ... Anticipation, uncertainty, uneasiness and privilege all play their part in charging a sense of personal displacement".

Thompson, who has also been based in Frankfurt, returned home earlier this year for his first major solo exhibition. Held at the Adam Art Gallery in Wellington, he exhibited three moving-image works including autoportrait and a new work, How Long?, made in Fiji where his father was born.

Gallery curator Stephen Cleland said Thompson's subjects have complex and sobering personal histories — as detailed in the accompanying wall texts — that allude to real-life violence.

"These cinematic portraits bring us face to face with those who've lost loved ones or who are linked to scenes of tragic conflict. On the surface, they're very simple, but spending time with them opens up deeper levels."

Thompson's work will now be exhibited, with other shortlisted finalists, at the Tate Gallery from September to January, 2019, as part of the Turner Prize exhibition.