At the Turner Prize, controversy is the name of the game. In fact, this year's Frieze Art Fair in London supplied all that, but was commercially successful, as well as being a remarkable feat of organisation. All the punters were there, putting other fairs in the shade and claiming to be the greatest in Europe.
For the 2004 Prize, the controversy rests with an artwork nominated by the judges. The display by Langlands and Bell has actually had to be withdrawn. The 12-minute film was made by the artists in 2002, in Kabul, Afghanistan, as a result of an enlightened commission by the Imperial War Museum. However, the display has had the lawyers thumbing their rule books nervously, as this is not a television property show, but a run around Osama Bin Laden's former home. One of the subjects is the dramatic trial of one man in the Afghan supreme court. However, in the end, said Nikki Bell, their 'trial' film simply had to be removed.
Two other artists in the show also indulge this new mood. Jeremy Deller has made a telling film about George W. Bush in Texas and Yinka Shonibare presents a rerun of the masked ball assassination of King Gustav III in Sweden. Such morbid preoccupations seem to represent a new sobriety for the previously fun-loving artists and clientele for the Award.