The Best Original Artwork Hugo category was established in 1990 and was eliminated in 1997. The category was intended to honor individual pieces of art, whether or not published and whether or not cover art. (Best Professional Artist and Best Fan Artist honor the artist for a body of work, not an individual piece.
The category ultimately failed for two reasons: First, there were too many potential, worthy, nominees and the nomination votes received tended to be wide and flat with many pieces each getting only a few nominations. As a consequence, which pieces that actually got onto the final ballot tended to be due mostly to chance. (Additionally, a category which requires few votes to put a work onto the final ballot is very sensitive to a group of friends getting together and bloc voting.) Secondly, in the pre-WWW era, it was difficult to give most Hugo voters an opportunity to see what they were voting for, since the art tended to be widely scattered in where it appeared.
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