LONDON — Tai Shani, a self-taught artist who creates elaborate fantasy worlds “beyond patriarchal limits,” and Helen Cammock, whose work has explored the role of women during the conflict in Northern Ireland, have been shortlisted this year for the Turner Prize — British art’s highest accolade.
The Colombian artist Oscar Murillo, whose work often addresses the immigrant experience, is the most prominent name on the four-person shortlist, which was announced on Wednesday at a news conference at Tate Britain in London.
The sound artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan, who has worked with organizations such as Amnesty International to highlight human rights abuses, completed the list. Mr. Hamdan was nominated for works that recreated a prison run by the Syrian government from the memories of prisoners held in complete darkness.
Alex Farquharson, the director of Tate Britain and chairman of the prize’s judges, highlighted the artists’ political engagement at the news conference. “Their work seeks to foreground voices that have perhaps been marginalized,” he said.
“There is joy in the political,” added Charlie Porter, a journalist who is one of the judges, when asked if the selection was too serious.
The Turner Prize, founded in 1984, was once one of the art world’s most important awards, though lately it has lost some of its luster. Still, the prize gives a boost to the shortlisted artists’ careers. Past winners have included Damien Hirst, Grayson Perry and Steve McQueen, the director of the movies “Widows” and “12 Years a Slave.” The winner gets 25,000 pounds, about $32,500, and all nominees receive £5,000.
The British news media has often used the prize as an annual opportunity to examine, or denounce, the state of contemporary art. Last year’s shortlist was heavily criticized in some newspapers for only featuring video art, and even its fans admitted it was a challenging selection. It was won by Charlotte Prodger for films made on her iPhone that explored her sexual identity.
At a time when museum sponsors are coming under increased scrutiny, gay rights campaigners in Britain ciriticized the Turner Prize on Wednesday for accepting sponsorship from Stagecoach, a bus company whose chairman, Brian Souter, campaigned in 2000 against teaching about homosexuality in schools.
At the news conference announcing the shortlist, Mr. Farquharson said it was up to Turner Contemporary, the award’s host venue this year, to find local sponsors. He declined to comment on whether Stagecoach was an appropriate choice. In an emailed statement on Wednesday, Stagecoach said it “does not tolerate discrimination or harassment of any kind.”
When Ms. Prodger won in 2018, she was the third woman to win the prize in a row after Lubaina Himid and the multimedia artist Helen Marten. Ms. Prodger is representing Scotland at this year’s Venice Biennale, which opens later this month. Mr. Hamdan will also show work at Venice, in “May You Live In Interesting Times,” the Biennale’s main exhibition. Oscar Murillo, who became an art-world star in the early 2010s, has work appearing at The Shed in New York from June.
Ms. Cammock was shortlisted for her solo exhibition “The Long Note,” a mixed media exhibition about the first civil rights march in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, in 1968. It can be seen at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin until May 12. She will also have an exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery in London from June 25, a sign that she is becoming a name to watch in Britain.
A free exhibition of work by all four finalists will open at Turner Contemporary in Margate, a seaside town about 70 miles east of London, from Sept. 28 until Jan. 12.
The winner, chosen by the four-person jury, will be announced at a ceremony on Dec. 3.