LONDON (Reuters) - The Tate Britain released a shortlist for the Turner Prize on Tuesday that will bring delight and despair in equal measure to the critics and supporters of modern art's most prestigious and controversial award.
The final four chosen to contest the Turner prize included two filmmakers, an artist who mixes painting, film, sculpture and performance and a classic illustrator who makes painstakingly detailed drawings.
The four artists named were Spartacus Chetwynd, Luke Fowler, Paul Noble and Elizabeth Price.
Their work will be shown in an exhibition at the Tate Britain museum in London opening on October 2 and the 25,000 pound ($40,600) prize will be awarded during a live broadcast on Britain's channel 4 on December 3.
Chetwynd's paintings, carnivalesque performances and sculptural installations utilizing handmade costumes and sets are said to create an "atmosphere of joyful improvisation."
Fowler weaves found footage and new material into films, which the Tate said evokes "the atmosphere of a particular era", while video artist Price reanimates existing archives of imagery, texts and music in carefully sequenced films.
Noble brought together the painstakingly detailed and engrossing drawings of the fictional metropolis Nobson Newtown for a solo exhibition at the Gagosian gallery.
"Undercutting the precise, technical drawing is a dark satirical narrative which unfolds in the micro-cosmos of these monumental works," the Tate said in a statement announcing shortlist.
British bookmaker Ladbrokes said on Tuesday they favored Chetwynd to win with 7/4 odds, saying her solo exhibition was the entry which has captured the attention of the oddsmakers at first sight of the shortlist, just holding off Paul Noble (2/1).
"In a typically varied field we're tipping Spartacus at this early stage," Alex Donohue of Ladbrokes said. "Punters also fancy Noble but it's impossible to rule anyone out."
Members of the Turner Prize 2012 jury are Andrew Hunt, the director of the Focal Point Gallery in Southend-on-Sea, Heike Munder, the director of Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst in Zurich, Michael Stanley, the director of Modern Art Oxford in Oxford, Mark Sladen, the director of Kunsthal Charlottenborg in Copenhagen and Penelope Curtis, the director of Tate Britain and the chair of the jury.
The annual prize awards British artists aged under 50 for an "outstanding exhibition or other presentation of their work in the twelve months preceding".
Established in 1984, it has thrived on public debate about what constitutes art, with critics in the past accusing winners of creating works designed purely to shock.
Favorite Martin Boyce won the Turner Prize last year with his distinctive sculptural installations, which seek to create an urban landscape within the confines of the gallery space.
His art topped a shortlist of works that some critics said was one of the best in the Turner's then 27-year history at a show that was considered a triumph and held at the Baltic gallery in Gateshead, northern England.
Last year's winning choice was more restrained than it has been in the past, with the Turner Prize famous for sparking fierce debate about what constitutes art.
Damien Hirst was presented with the prize in 1995 for a pickled cow, and in 2001 an empty room with a light that switched on and off clinched the prize for Martin Creed.
But the lack of controversy last year did not dampen public interest in the exhibition of works by the four shortlisted artists and a nearly naked man in a pink tutu leapt on stage during the proceedings providing a brief moment of hilarity.
($1 = 0.6165 British pounds)
(Reporting by Paul Casciato; editing by Patricia Reaney)