Farquharson, director of the Tate Britain gallery in London, said the four artists – Beirut-based Hamdan and London artists Cammock, Murillo and Shani – had not met before they were shortlisted for the prize earlier this year, but had since “formed a real creative and ethical bond.”
“It’s not four winners. It’s one winner, and it’s the four of them as a collective,” he said.
All four of the artists explore political terrain. Cammock has delved into the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland, Shani created a feminist science fiction world, Murillo is influenced by the history of his native Colombia, and Hamdan interviewed former inmates of a notorious Syrian prison for a sound installation.
Usually the Turner Prize winner receives £25,000 ($47,000) and the runners-up £5,000 ($9,000). This year the four artists can divide the £40,000 ($76,000) prize pot however they wish.
Named for 19th-century landscape painter J.M.W. Turner, the award was founded in 1984 and helped make stars of potter Grayson Perry, shark pickler Damien Hirst and 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen.
But it has also been criticised for rewarding impenetrable conceptual work and often sparks debate about the value of modern art.
The surprise Turner result follows a contentious decision by jurors of this year’s Booker Prize for fiction to split the award between two writers, Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo. The move was widely criticised in the publishing industry as watering down the impact of the award.
Farquharson said the Turner Prize had “broken the mold” before, with recent winners and nominees including architects and human-rights researchers.
He said innovating had “kept the Turner Prize dynamic and surprising and not ossified.”
“I don’t think it would have had that long history had it not evolved, had it not surprised us,” he said.