Veteran broadcaster Melvyn Bragg hosted the annual ceremony at The Savoy Hotel in London on Sunday, celebrating a broad range of artistic genres including dance, theatre, music, TV and film.
The Satanic Verses author Sir Salman was handed the outstanding achievement award for his “impressive body of work” over the last five decades, including winning the Booker Prize in 1981 for his second novel Midnight’s Children.
Sir Salman, 76, said: “This is a high honour indeed, and I’m delighted to be receiving it in the company of so many extraordinary figures in so many different arts, all being recognised for exceptional work.
“Artists, of all sorts, make up a community I’m proud to belong to, and it’s good to be celebrating that community together.”
It comes almost a year after Sir Salman was stabbed repeatedly while on stage at a literary festival in New York state.
Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini had condemned as blasphemous passages referring to the Prophet Muhammad in Sir Salman’s 1988 novel The Satanic Verses.
Khomeini issued a decree the following year calling for the writer’s death, forcing the author into hiding – although he had been travelling freely for years before last summer’s stabbing.
Meanwhile, Prima Facie at London’s Harold Pinter Theatre – which sees Killing Eve star Comer as a defence lawyer who ends up in the witness box – took home the theatre award.
It comes after Comer won her first Tony award and Olivier award for her role in Suzie Miller’s one-woman production, which is currently on Broadway.
Aftersun, which secured lead actor Paul Mescal an Oscar nomination this year, won for film, while the highly-anticipated return of Sally Wainwright’s BBC series Happy Valley won in the TV drama category.
Amputee dancer Musa Motha, who left judge Simon Cowell “speechless” after his performance in the Britain’s Got Talent final this year, received The Times breakthrough award celebrating emerging talent.
Ivor Novello-winning singer-songwriter Raye took home the pop award for her critically acclaimed debut studio album My 21st Century Blues, and the Royal Ballet’s Light Of Passage picked up the accolade for dance.
Tom Crewe’s debut novel The New Life, exploring homosexuality in 19th century Britain, scooped the literature prize – and Jack Rooke’s popular Channel 4 comedy series Big Boys won for comedy.
The winners were presented with a bespoke trophy designed by previous South Bank Sky Arts Awards winner and artist Sir Grayson Perry, inspired by slip cast Staffordshire figures.
Host Bragg said: “As demonstrated by our winners and performers at this year’s South Bank Sky Arts Awards, British artists are continuing to excel themselves in every genre.
“The indomitable spirit of the arts in Britain goes from strength to strength – an example for all other industries.”
The ceremony saw performances from singer-songwriter Self Esteem, saxophonist Jess Gillam, Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen, and singer-songwriter Enny.
South Bank Sky Arts Awards will air on Sky Arts, Freeview and streaming service Now on July 5 at 10pm.