Exhibition Lets Public Have a Say on Art as Poll Gives Nod to Tapestry Work; as the Latest Artes Mundi Exhibition Comes to a Close Tomorrow, Karen Price Finds out the Impact It's Had on the Arts Scene in Wales - and Reveals Which Artist Proved Most Popular among Audiences

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SHE may not have won the PS40,000 top prize, but Swedish artist Miriam Backstrom will be celebrating today after discovering that her work has proved most popular with visitors to the Artes Mundi 5 exhibition.

For the first time in the history of the award - dubbed "the Welsh Turner Prize" - visitors to National Museum Cardiff have been casting their votes for their favourite artist.

Backstrom - whose work includes the eye-catching large-scale tapestry, aptly titled Smile As If We Have Already Won - has proved most popular in the Audience Choice Poll, narrowly beating Mexican artist Teresa Margolles, who was the judges' winner.

David Thorp, associate director of the Artes Mundi Prize, says they felt it was important to find out how audiences felt about the work on show.

"Contemporary art is challenging," he admits. "Often there has been the idea that it's a really cliquey world but I think it's changed a lot in recent years. We wanted to give people the chance to say what they liked best, irrespective of what the expert panel of judges decided. We wanted to try to break down the idea that contemporary art is elitist. Art is for everyone - we can all enjoy it and have an opinion on it."

The fifth Artes Mundi exhibition opened last October and runs until tomorrow and while official visitor figures have not yet been finalised, organisers say they are expecting around an 8% increase on the 2010 exhibition.

"From our perception, it's gone extremely well," says Thorp. "Whenever I've walked through the galleries, which I do at different times of the day and on different days of the week, there have always been people there. We've had a stream of interested people from day one."

Maybe it's the fact that in contrast to previous exhibitions, more than half of the work shown in Artes Mundi 5 was new and created especially for the show - and much of it was produced after the artists engaged on a local level.

Apolonija uteric's Politics In Space/Tiger Bay Project, for instance, looked at the redevelopment of the Cardiff Bay area that began in the '80s with the barrage.

And Cuban artist Tania Bruguera's Immigrant Respect Campaign saw her working with a group of young Cardiff-based immigrants aged eight to 16 as they explored through weekly workshops both Bruguera's work and the political system in Wales to uncover the issues they feel strongly about.

While the central focus was the exhibition in the new contemporary art wing at National Museum Cardiff, Artes Mundi 5 also had a presence in other venues like nearby Chapter Arts Centre and Oriel Mostyn in Llandudno. …