The Turner Prize, one of the world's top contemporary art honours, is awarded later on Monday, and for only the second time in its 27-year history the ceremony will be held outside London.

The host in 2011 is the BALTIC gallery in Gateshead, where celebrity photographer Mario Testino will present the prize.

The move outside the capital has been welcomed, both for underlining that it is a national, not London honour and for the quality of the space dedicated to the Turner show.

The Baltic in Gateshead has had its ups and downs, but the Turner looks happier there than it ever has in the tomb-like Tate Britain, said Charles Darwent, writing in the Independent on Sunday newspaper.

Of course, the Tate is still behind the prize, but you wouldn't necessarily guess it. I can't recall a stronger show over the past 27 years, better chosen, better displayed, more poised or grown-up.

The four nominees for the award, which comes with a 25,000 pound cheque and contemporary art celebrity status in Britain and beyond, are Karla Black, Martin Boyce, Hilary Lloyd and George Shaw.

Glasgow-based Boyce, whose sculptural installation combines the outside feel of a park with interior design and high modernism, is the bookmakers' favourite.

He is closely followed by Shaw, the only painter among the nominees, who evokes bleak urban landscapes of crumbling buildings and wasteland in small, detailed images.

A long way behind in terms of betting odds, but popular among the critics, is Black, whose fragile installations involve see-through cellophane curtains and huge mounds of paper coloured in powdered paint.

Finally, Lloyd's room of video works deliberately draws the viewer's gaze to the technology she uses as well as the images they project.

Whoever wins the prize, some in the art world feel 2011 has helped put the Turner Prize back on the cultural map.

In the past it has been dismissed as emperor's new clothes, and previous winners include Martin Creed, whose exhibit in 2001 was an empty room with lights going on and off.

Three years earlier Chris Ofili triumphed with paintings propped up on elephant dung.

But it has also helped launch the careers of some of Britain's leading contemporary artists, including Damien Hirst, who won in 1995, Steve McQueen (1999) and Antony Gormley (1994).

Richard Dorment of the Telegraph wrote of this year's show: Here's a turn up. Just when I thought the Turner Prize couldn't get more irrelevant if it tried, bingo, along comes a first-class shortlist and an exhibition as good as any I've seen in two decades of reviewing the event.

(Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato)