Recent decades have seen a marked growth in the number of arts prizes awarded annually. Not only have these prizes attracted considerable media coverage and controversy, they have also had a significant impact on cultural consumption and production, as well as on the aesthetic discourses operating within different cultural forms. This article argues that the arts prize deserves closer scrutiny than it has received so far. Taking a small number of UK prizes as case studies, the article explores the interests that shape them, the organization of the media response to them, and their impact. It argues that understanding the cultural politics of contemporary arts prizes is important to an appreciation of wider cultural processes.