Scottish artist Martin Boyce, whose works include a modernist reworking of a library table and artificial trees, won Britain's Turner Prize at a ceremony in Gateshead, north-east England.
On picking up the £25,000 ($39,100, 29,200 euros) award at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art on Monday, 44-year-old Boyce paid tribute to his parents and highlighted the importance of teachers in light of the government's spending cuts.
The Turner is regarded as the art world's most edgy prize, but the decision to honour Boyce's atmospheric, large-scale, site-specific installations was an uncontroversial choice.
The Hamilton-born artist takes his inspiration from the modernist giants of the early 20th century, and is known for taking styles found in furniture design and in the urban landscape and re-working them in modern spaces.
Boyce was given the prize by photographer Mario Testino, and used the platform to support the teaching profession.
"All I wanted to do was go to art school," he said. "I went there and there was the most amazing group of people waiting for me.
"At a time when education has been put though the wringer, I want to acknowledge the value of a successful education and the importance of teachers," he added.
Scotland's Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop celebrated Boyce's "fantastic achievement".
"It's a great tribute to Scotland's creativity that two of our most innovative and exciting sculptors had been shortlisted for this award, particularly as we approach the Year of Creative Scotland in 2012," she added.
Boyce's entry included three artificial trees, artificial leaves made from wax-coated crepe paper scattered across the gallery's floor and a leaning litter bin.
Boyce explained that his work explored "landscapes".
"It's about passing through the space and the space between the sculptures as much as the sculptures themselves," he added.
A judge described his work as: "Distinctive for the way that he employs his grammar of forms. Boyce's sparse, intelligent sculptures evolve each time they are exhibited, exploring new tensions and new contrasts."
The other nominees were realist-painter George Shaw, installation sculptor Karla Black and video artist Hilary Lloyd.
The Turner Prize was set up in 1984 to promote public discussion of new developments in contemporary British art. It is open to British artists aged under 50.
It has regularly been the subject of controversy, notably in 1999 when Tracey Emin was shortlisted for "My Bed", which featured an unmade bed with stained sheets.
It is only the second time the award has been held outside of London, following on from Liverpool's hosting of the event in 2007.
The decision to move the prize to the north has been a huge success with more than 120,000 visitors passing through the Baltic Centre's doors in the last six weeks.
Sound artist Susan Philipsz, also from Scotland, won last year's prize.