London, May 14 : In a span of 24 years of the Turner prize, only three women have won. But now, looks like things are changing with the announcement that three out of four artists on this year's shortlist - Bangadeshi-born Runa Islam, Goshka Macuga from Poland and the Belfast-born artist Cathy Wilkes - are women.
The only male contender for the prize, to be awarded on 1 December, is Mark Leckey, from London.
The Turner Prize is an annual prize presented to a British visual artist under 50. It is organized by the Tate gallery and staged at Tate Britain.
Since its beginnings in 1984 it has become the United Kingdom's most publicized art award. It has become associated with conceptual art, although it represents all media and painters have also won the prize.
Stephen Deuchar, director of Tate Britain and chairman of the judging panel, said the shortlist was less a conscious effort to redress gender imbalance than a happy coincidence.
"There's a higher than average chance of a woman winning this year. But the judges made there choices based on individuals," the Independent quoted him, as saying.
A female Turner winner for 2008 is not a foregone conclusion. The last time three women were shrotlisted was in 1998 when Sam Taylor-Wood, Tacita Dean and Cathy de Monchaux were nominated alongside Chris Ofili. Ofili won.
This year, it is Leckey, 43, a "modern-day dandy" whose video work is inspired by cartoons, who is favourite to win.
The shortlist has no paintings and is more conceptual than last year's winner, Mark Wallinger, whose replica of the one-man anti-war protest in Parliament Square was described as a return to political art.
And, while the selection of relatively unknown artists may be criticized, Sir Nicolas Serota, director of the Tate, said the prize was about emerging talent.
"I think the prize is about giving younger artists the opportunity for their work to be seen in a big public institution," he said.
Islam was picked for works that include a short film in which a woman wanders around a gallery throwing fine china on the floor in slow motion. Suzanne Cotter, one of the jury panel and the curator of Modern Art Oxford, described her work as "intelligent and extremely sensuous".
Wilkes's creations include semi-clad mannequins placed in everyday poses, such as sitting on the lavatory.
Jennifer Higgie, the editor of the arts magazine Frieze, and another jury member, said Wilkes used the models "to disrupt an idealized idea of what women might be".
Macuga merges the boundaries between artist and curator by "excavating" existing art collections to come up with something new, thereby "enacting a form of cultural archaeology", a Tate spokesman said.
Leckey's work has used characters from the American cartoon series The Simpsons to draw attention to how famous images seem to inhabit our physical world.
In one film, he used images of Marge Simpson walking out of a cinema in his work to highlight the crossover between images and the real world, while he has also delivered a lecture wearing a Simpsons mask.