December 1, 2008 / 8:10 PM / 9 years ago

Favorite Mark Leckey wins UK's Turner art prize

<p>British artist Mark Leckey gestures with a glass of wine in his hand before a photo opportunity after winning the 2008 Turner Prize at the Tate Britain in London December 1, 2008.Andrew Winning</p>

LONDON (Reuters) - Bookmakers' Favorite Mark Leckey won the Turner Prize on Monday, beating three other shortlisted artists who were all women to claim one of the art world's most prestigious and contentious awards.

The 44-year-old Briton is best known for his film work, and according to a video presentation accompanying his Turner Prize installation he draws inspiration from popular sources like sci-fi movie "Blade Runner" and cartoon character Felix the Cat.

He also explores contemporary visual culture with a film of Jeff Koons's polished steel "Rabbit," and his art lecture "Cinema-in-the-Round" is screened in a reconstructed movie theater at London's Tate Britain museum.

"Everything in here is about having something, it's about things that you desire and I desire and my trying to work out my relationship with them," Leckey told reporters surrounded by his works. "They manufacture my desires and I want to know why."

Leckey receives a check for 25,000 pounds ($37,000) and his profile in the contemporary art world is likely to rise as a result of the award and the publicity it generates.

"I can increase my scope. I want to make a television series. Now hopefully...maybe that can happen," Leckey said.

"I'm going to squirrel away for these hard times, be sensible. This is good for me because it means I don't have to worry about selling stuff."

Only three women have won the annual prize since it began in 1984, and expectations were high that a fourth would be crowned at an awards ceremony on Monday evening, since Leckey was the only man on the shortlist.

Belfast-born Cathy Wilkes's "I Give You All My Money" featured two supermarket checkouts covered in dirty dishes and surrounded by a ladder, tiles, a mannequin sitting on a toilet and another with its head in a bird cage.

Runa Islam, born in Bangladesh, presented several film works, including "Be The First To See What You See As You See It" in which a woman inspects china objects before pushing a cup and saucer off a table, smashing them on the floor.

And Goshka Macuga's sculptural ensemble of glass and metal was inspired by relationships between two pairs of artists -- Paul Nash and Eileen Agar and Lilly Reich and Mies van der Rohe.

Critics and the public regularly clash over the Turner Prize, arguing whether the works on display are art at all.

In 2001 Martin Creed raised eyebrows with his Turner installation, which featured lights going on and off in a room, and three years earlier Chris Ofili caused a stir for works that incorporated lumps of elephant dung.

The knives were out again in 2008, with some critics dismissing this year's selection as a celebration of mediocrity, and, perhaps more scathingly, devoid of any real controversy.

Tate director Nicholas Serota defended the prize against its detractors at the awards ceremony.

"It exists to promote discussion about contemporary art and it succeeds," Serota said. "The show is as strong as any I have seen."

Editing by Paul Casciato

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