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FEMALE artists make the strongest showing in a decade in the TurnerPrize shortlist announced today, with three women born in three differentcountries in the running for the [pounds sterling]25,000 prize.

Bangladesh-born Runa Islam, 37, Goshka Macuga, 40, from Poland, and CathyWilkes, also 40, from Belfast, have been selected alongside Mark Leckey, 43,the token male.

The last time that happened was in 1998 when Tacita Dean, Cathy de

Monchaux and Sam Taylor-Wood vied for the award although all were beaten byChris Ofili with his paintings adorned with elephant dung.

Stephen Deuchar, director of Tate Britain and this year's chair of judges forthe first time, said the significance of the number of women could beoverplayed.

In 1997, the list was entirely made up of women. "Obviously, it's great butevery year the jury picks four individuals then sees what the group lookslike," he said.

It was unfair to generalise about their similarities, he said. But British artand its audiencehad grown increasingly sophisticated since the brazenness of the Young BritishArtists generation a decade ago. "These are works which require the viewer'sclose attention. They're not easy, they don't have easy punchlines, easy hits.I think that's incredibly positive," he said.

The shortlist again includes no painters, nearly all the artists work in amultiplicity of media with film a major influence. Their work involveseverything from characters in the comic Viz (Leckey) to shop mannequins(Wilkes). All bar Wilkes live and work in London.

The four were chosen by a panel which included architect David Adjaye andJennifer Higgie, the editor of

Frieze magazine. An exhibition of the shortlisted artists will be at TateBritain from 7 October. The winner will be announced live on Channel 4 on 1December and the runners-up will receive [pounds sterling]5,000 each.

The prize is awarded to a British artist or an artist living in Britain under50 for outstanding work in the last 12 months.

Last year's winner was Mark Wallinger for his replication of the ParliamentSquare anti-war protest. …


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