Awards in Contemporary Art

Can’t tell your Turner from your Max Mara? Then we’re here to help with a bluffer's guide to the key awards in Contemporary Art.


There are a number of different awards in contemporary art, operating on local, national and international levels. These awards are important to artists as they provide exposure, opportunities and funding. In this feature we aim to unravel the mystery behind contemporary art awards and explain three of the most talked-about and influential accolades; the Turner Prize, the Max Mara Prize for Women and the Hugo Boss Prize.

Workshop (2010 – ongoing)
© The Artist. Courtesy of the Artist
Workshop (2010 – ongoing) by Ciara Phillips, Turner Prize Nominee 2014

The Turner Prize, named after the famous 19th century British artist J. M. W Turner, is an annual award presented by Tate to a British-based artist under the age of fifty for an outstanding exhibition or presentation of work that year. An independent jury, which changes annually, made up of museum and gallery professionals such as directors, curators and art academics, selects the shortlist of four artists, and eventually chooses the winner who is awarded £25,000. The shortlisted artists present their work in a show which is usually held at Tate Britain, however in recent years the exhibition venue alternates between Tate and other UK galleries.

In 2015 The Turner Prize will be held at Tramway in Glasgow.

The Turner Prize is often controversial due to the often conceptual nature of works, but it has played a significant role in provoking debate about visual art and in stimulating public interest in contemporary British art in particular.

The following have been nominated for, or have won the Turner Prize; they have all a connection to Scotland. Many are showing work as part of GENERATION.
Ian Hamilton Finlay Nominated 1985
David Mach Nominated 1988
Peter Doig Nominated 1994
Callum Innes Nominated 1995
Douglas Gordon Winner 1996
Christine Borland Nominated 1997
Martin Creed Winner 2001
Anya Gallaccio Nominated 2003
Jim Lambie Nominated 2005
Nathan Coley Nominated 2007
Richard Wright Winner 2009
Lucy Skaer Nominated 2009
Susan Philipsz Winner 2010
Martin Boyce Winner 2011
Karla Black Nominated 2011
Luke Fowler Nominated 2012
David Shrigley Nominated 2013
Ciara Phillips Nominated 2014
Duncan Campbell Nominated 2014
Tris Vonna-Michell Nominated 2014

The Max Mara Prize for Women

The Foxes
© The Artist. Courtesy of the artist and Kendall Koppe
The Foxes (2013) by Corin Sworn

The Max Mara Prize for Women is sponsored by the design house after which the prize takes its name, and is hosted by the Whitechapel Gallery in London. This biannual award promotes and nurtures female artists based in the United Kingdom who have not previously had a major exhibition. The winner receives a fully funded six month residency in Italy to develop and make new work to be exhibited at the Whitechapel Gallery.  The holder of the award in 2014 is the Scottish-based artist, Corin Sworn.

The Hugo Boss Prize

Like the Max Mara Prize, the Hugo Boss Prize is a biannual award sponsored by the fashion house after which it is named, and is administrated by the Guggenheim Museum. This award differs from the two above as there are no restrictions on age, nationality or gender. A jury of five to six curators, critics and scholars is responsible for nominating six or seven artists for the short list from which a winner is chosen, receiving $100,000 and an exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. As there are no restrictions for nominations, this prize allows a broad spectrum of contemporary artists to be represented, and has promoted numerous emerging and established artists. In 1998 Scottish artist Douglas Gordon won the Hugo Boss Prize.

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