Roger Hiorns, Enrico David, Lucy Skaer and Richard Wright are the artists in the running for the award, which is worth £25,000 (€27,000) to the prize winner and £5,000 for each of those shortlisted.
Among the exhibits at Tate Britain is a heap of metal dust from an atomised passenger jet engine by Hiorns.
Helen Little, assistant curator, said the engine had been melted down and sprayed through nozzles at high speed, to create fine granules.
She said his work was about “giving new life to objects. It’s a test of faith in technology”. Asked if visitors might question why a heap of dust was on display in the Tate, Little said the work was “strangely interesting and beautiful”.
“It’s quite evocative of a landscape.”
Three wall sculptures made up of preserved bovine brain matter, plastic and steel were also among Hiorns’s pieces on display, which Little said “challenged” gallery-goers’ perceptions as they were viewing something which could once see and feel.
David’s exhibition includes a parade of bizarre toy-like characters, including papier mache “egg men” with feet which would enable them to rock back and forth, from his nominated exhibition How Do You Love Dzzzzt By Mammy?
David is presenting a new installation of paintings, collages and sculptures called Absuction Cardigan 2009.
His collection includes a huge slumping cloth doll and pictures of unclothed dolls and a workman in a fluorescent jacket, with his bare bottom on display.
Skaer’s work includes Leviathan Edge 2009, the skull of a sperm whale, just visible from behind a screen partitioned with “peep holes”.
Another of her works, Black Alphabet, 2008, is a series of 26 sculptures made from coal dust.
Wright’s display includes a highly intricate gold-leaf pattern across one wall of the gallery.
The Turner Prize 2009 exhibition opens to the public today and runs until January 3, 2010. The full admission price is £8.
This year’s winner will be announced during a live Channel 4 broadcast on December 7.