A replica of a one-man anti-war protest in London's Parliament Square has scooped this year's prestigious Turner Prize. Mark Wallinger won the UK art award for "State Britain," a work depicting a six-year vigil held by demonstrator Brian Haw outside the Houses of Parliament.
US actor Dennis Hopper presented the £25,000 ($51,600) prize to Wallinger at a ceremony in Liverpool on Monday night -- the first time the awards had been held outside the capital. The jury commended the "immediacy" and historic importance of the exhibit, which featured reproductions of Haw's posters protesting about the Iraq war.
Wallinger, 48, was previously best known for his film "Sleeper" in which he dressed up as a bear and wandered around a Berlin art gallery for 10 nights. The artist, who made the Turner shortlist in 1995 but has never won the prize, paid tribute to Haw following his win.
"Brian Haw is a remarkable man who has waged a tireless campaign against the folly and hubris of this government's foreign policy," Wallinger said as he collected the prize. "For six-and-a-half years, he has remained steadfast in Parliament Square. He is the last dissenting voice in Britain."
Haw began his round-the-clock vigil in June 2001 to protest the sanctions imposed on Iraq and, later, the invasion by Britain and the United States. His demonstration included posters, wooden crosses, teddy bears, and graphic images of child victims of war.
Most of his paraphernalia was impounded by police last year, but Wallinger meticulously reproduced items such as Haw's weather-beaten poster calling US President George W. Bush and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair "baby killers," and the demonstrator's tarpaulin shelter and tea-making area.
The items were exhibited at the Tate Britain gallery in central London. Judges said Wallinger's work "demonstrates art's unique ability to engage with contemporary political issues" and managed to "communicate an unpalatable political truth." The other artists shortlisted for the award were Zarina Bhimji, Nathan Coley and Mike Nelson.
The high profile Turner Prize, which was established in 1984 to honour British artists under 50, often courts controversy. Damien Hirst took the 1995 prize for exhibition pieces including a rotting cow's head. Tracey Emin became a household name after being nominated in 1999 for "My Bed," an installation which showed how her own bed looked after she had spent several days in it following the breakdown of a relationship. Last year the prize went to German artist Tomma Abts, the first woman painter to receive the award.