There are no flashing lights this year, literally or metaphorically; no scandal, manufactured or otherwise, in the form of elephant dung or pornographic pots. This year's Turner prize has been won by the deeply serious abstract painter Tomma Abts - the first woman to win since Gillian Wearing took the prize in 1997, and the first artist devoted to painting since Chris Ofili in 1998.
Abts was awarded the £25,000 prize tonight by Yoko Ono at a ceremony at Tate Britain, London. She proved a hugely popular winner among the British art world - out in force at what amounts to its annual tribal get-together.
Since 1998, all the paintings by this German-born, London-based artist have been made on canvases measuring precisely 48 x 38cm. She uses no source material, but allows the form of the paintings to emerge as she applies layers of colour - a process that mingles disciplined severity with pure intuition. The results are entirely distinctive - some of the forms look as if they want to struggle into three dimensions; others coil, snakelike, across the canvas.
Abts saw off opposition from three other shortlisted artists, each of whom wins £4,000. Phil Collins's submission was based around the making of a film called The Return of the Real, in which he gave people whose lives had been ruined by reality TV an opportunity to tell their stories, unedited. Rebecca Warren is a sculptor whose often highly sexualised work takes on artists such as Rodin and Giacometti. Mark Titchner creates installations, posters and billboards that question belief systems, from religion to science.
For the seventh year running, the group of anti-Tate, anti-Turner-prize artists known as the Stuckists picketed Tate Britain as guests filtered into the gallery for the ceremony. They brandished placards asking, "Is it all a fix?", quoting a piece by Lynn Barber, a writer for the Observer and a Turner prize juror this year.
Breaking the traditional omertà observed by jurors, she wrote an article in October that has overshadowed the latter stages of this year's prize. In it, she aired her bafflement at the judging process, and declared her enthusiasm for contemporary art "seriously dampened" after her year as a Turner panel member.
She described feeling "demoralised, disillusioned, and full of dark fears that I have been stitched up - that actually the 'art world' [whatever that is] has already decided who will win the 2006 Turner Prize and that I am brought in purely as a figleaf".
Apart from Ms Barber, the remaining jurors were Margot Heller, director of the South London Gallery; Matthew Higgs, director of the White Columns gallery in New York; Andrew Renton, director of the curators' course at Goldsmiths College; and Sir Nicholas Serota, who is chair of the jury.
The Turner prize awards a British-based or British-born artist under 50 for an outstanding exhibition of his or her work in the 12 months preceding May 9, 2006.
Since its inception in 1984, previous winners have included Howard Hodgkin (1985); Damien Hirst (1995); Martin Creed (2001), and, last year, Simon Starling.
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