Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Threadneedle Prize 2011 - a new selection process


This is a reminder about the Call For Entries for the Threadneedle Prize 2011 - for painting and sculpture - plus it also highlights and comments on the changes in the entry and selection process this year and another change which I've long lobbied for!  This year is also a good year for artists who are computer 'savvy'.
The prime competition for figurative art in the UK
The Times
As I reported recently, the Call for Entries for the prestigious £25,000 Threadneedle Prize 2011 was published in March and the registration process is now open.  The deadline for entries is 1st June 2011. 

This is a reminder of what you need to do if you want to enter this prestigious figurative art competition.

Although a major art competition in the UK, the Threadneedle Prize is still relatively new.  As such the entry conditions continue to be refined each year and the conditions of entry although getting longer are actually becoming much clearer and more helpful as to who is eligible and what sort of artwork can be entered - as explained below and in the Information for Artists section on the website

The emphasis this year is on making the entry process much more accessible and cost-effective for all artists.  Plus a significant clarification and one more major change - both of which are explained below!  To say I'm sitting here with a big smile on my face would be an understatement!

The changes are explained below along with the rest of the entry process.
An "alternative to the Turner Prize"
Daily Telegraph


About the Prize
The £25,000 Threadneedle Prize is the UK’s leading showcase for paintings and sculptures that promote the practice of representational art, but challenge its language and assumptions.

The Prize encourages both experienced and emerging artists to submit fresh and intriguing works that are strong and topical observations on the world.


With over £40,000 of prize money to be won, The Threadneedle Prize is one of the largest prizes for a single work of art in the UK.
This a video about last year's competition - and I was at that dinner where the prizes were awarded.  The shortlisted artists explain what it means for them - plus you get to see some of the work in the exhibition.


This is an OPEN art competition but there are some restrictions which are explained below.

This year's definition of what the prize is about is a significant improvement as to its statement of purpose which I applaud.  Somebody seems to have gone back to first principles in terms of what the competition has always been about and found some new words which say it an awful lot better this year.  The statement certainly provides welcome clarification for a lot of artists.

Every single entry selected for the final exhibition is sourced through an open competition process. 
  • There are no entries sponsored by Judges.  
  • There are no invited artists.  
  • Everybody has an equal chance - and the rest is up to merit and judgement.
Each year, the panel of selectors choose a number of paintings or sculptures which are then displayed in exhibition held at the Mall Galleries in September 2011.  Last year it was 46 - this year it will be more.
Approximately 65 works will be selected by a panel of selectors for the exhibition held at the Mall Galleries in September 2011.
The selectors also create a shortlist of seven works from which they then choose the winner of the £25,000 Threadneedle Prize.  The six runners up each get a prize of £1,000

After much lobbying by me (plus I guess maybe there were a few other people who were doing likewise?), ALL works in the exhibition are  now eligible to win the £10,000 Visitors’ Choice prize.  The votes are to be awarded by visitors to the exhibition.  This is a major change and represents the very first time in this exhibition that ANY of the works which reach the final exhibition selection can win $10,000.  That's going to make it very exciting for artists and exhibition visitors alike!

One artist may also still win both prizes (ie £35,000), making The Threadneedle Prize potentially the most valuable competition for a figurative painting or sculpture in the UK.

What sort of artwork is eligible for entry?

Below you can find out who can enter and progress through to what you can enter.  In each section I provide a link to the official related page on the Threadneedle Prize website which provides further information

Who is eligible to enter?  (Official page:  Who is eligible)

If you are 18 years old or older and live or work in the UK or the Republic of Ireland then you can enter this competition (unless you are an employee of organisations related to the Prize).

My interpretation of this is that it means:
  • if you are a foreign national but you have a legitimate and current visa which allows you to live or work in the UK or Ireland then you can enter the competition
  • if you are British or Irish but live or work abroad full time then you can't enter (thinking about which government you pay tax to generally provides the answer to whether or not you are eligible)
  • if you are an international artist who does not work or live in the UK or Ireland you can't ente
The Prize is not quite as draconian as the BP Portrait Award towards previous prizewinners (who are no longer eligible to enter after they have won).  Previous prizewinners can continue to enter up to three works but three years must elaspse before they are eligible to win the same prize again.

By the way - just in case you're wondering, this Prize has an excellent track record for rewarding female artists - see the end for links to details of the past prizwinners 

What kind of work may I enter?  (Official page: What to submit )

In terms of subject matter this is the guidance.  I think it is by far the best guideline to date for a competition which is about figurative / representational art.
Our aim is to encourage both experienced and emerging artists to submit fresh and intriguing works that are strong, contemporary and topical observations on the world; paintings and sculptures that challenge and lend new meaning to contemporary representational art.
This exhibition is primarily about painting and sculpture.  That's what it says on the official image (up top) and in the explanation about what the Prize is about - also quoted above. It's probably wise to keep this fact in mind. :)

In terms of painting you can submit:
  • work in a variety of mediums, including oil, tempera, acrylic, ink, vinyl, watercolour and other dry mediums. 
  • work on any form of support (canvas, paper, wood, plastic etc).  
You may also enter:
  • original prints and drawings, 
  • sculptures (which aren't being highlighted this year in the way they were last year when no sculpture actually made the shortlist)
  • mixed media constructions. (Note: Photography and video is only acceptable within other mixed media installations. )
  • small-scale installations and 
  • reliefs (sounds interesting - I'm guessing somebody asked!) 
Size and format matters:
  • diptychs and triptychs can be entered as one work
  • the unpacked size of works must smaller than 2.4m (and works must be delivered unpacked)
    works in excess of 2m squared may not be accepted by delivery/collection services - do NOT assume they will accept it
    A VERY IMPORTANT POINT is that ALL work pre-selected for handing-in must be received in exhibition condition but with no hanging devices.  Work can be unframed so long as it is exhibition-ready.

    The website highlights that this means all canvases must be dry and properly mounted on stretchers or board. (Don't you just know they've had people submitting work which is not ready for exhibition?)

    How many works can I enter?

    A maximum of three NEW artworks - all completed AFTER 1 January 20101 - can be entered.  This must also be the first exhibition for each work.  That means:
    • all artwork must be recent - old artwork is NOT eligible
    • works which have been previously exhibited in any other prize or competition anywhere in the world are NOT eligible.  
    ALL works have to be for sale.  I think this might a change and I'm not surprised.  Commercial galleries these days need to give floorspace to works which can earn them a commission. 
      How to enter

      The major change this year is that: 
      • A two stage- selection process has been introduced
      • All works are to be pre-selected based on photographs.
      • Physically transporting work to London is no longer required for the first selection phase.
      • Artists who work has been pre-selected will then be invited to hand-in the work for viewing by the panel of selectors, who will then decide whether or not to select it for the exhibition.
      Basically this is a way of making the whole process much more efficient and much more cost-effective for both artists and the gallery.  It should reduce costs for everybody!

      So far as an awful lot of artists are concerned this will significantly reduce submission costs and I'd expect this to mean that more artists will enter their work - knowing that they will only incur transport costs if there is a reasonable chance that work might be selected for exhibition.

      However you might be surprised by what I think "a reasonable chance" is.  Last year they had 2,100+ entries and selected 46 works.  I thought the exhibition could comfortably take at least another ten works and said so to the Director!  However this year, the website indicates they intend to display around about 65 works which sounds absolutely fine to me - the Mall Galleries are large!

      So 46 out of 2,100 in 2010 gives a ratio of approximately 1 work selected for every 46 entries.  But 45 out of 46 artists had incurred costs getting the work to London and back again.

      I'm thinking the organisers will this year aim for a cut for the second round more along the lines of 1 in 10.  Maybe less.  That gives a comfortable margin for rejections and drop outs and still leaves a goodly number to choose from.  It's also a reasonable ratio which says that's worth the expense of submitting the work.

      The downside is that initial selection is being based on a photograph in a digital format.  Artists are going to have to be very careful how they photograph their work so that it stands as good a chance as possible of being selected. This means that artists who aren't familiar with computers will need to find somebody who is.  Plus taking a good photograph is an art and not one learned quickly.

      Artists who are computer savvy and who are used to photographing/posting/selling their work on the Internet are going to have a significant advantage over artists who are not.  However the change in the process reflects the way society at large is changing as digital life becomes the norm (and I'm happy to provide the statistics for those who think otherwise)

      In my experience the problem for selectors who are inexperienced at selecting via digital image is that the element of a work which loses most impact is the size of the work.  (see BP Portrait Award 2011 Shortlist for a VERY graphic explanation of exactly what I mean).

      Timescale and deadlines
      • Registration Opens: 1 March 2011 
      • Registration Closes: 1 June 2011
      • Pre-selection Notification: 8 June 2011
      • Exhibition: 22 September - 8 October 2011

      HOW do I register? (Official page: Registration)

      Registration remains open until midnight on 1 June 2011.   Registrations received after this deadline may not be considered by selectors.  (Why do they say 'may' as opposed to 'will'?)

      The registration fee this year is lower and differentiates between categories of artists:
      • most people will pay £12.00 per work (including VAT).  
      • Members of the FBA and full-time students (copy of NUS card required) can pay just £10.00 per work (including VAT). 
      In order to enter you must do four things
      • PHOTOGRAPH:  take a photograph of your work and create a digital file (see notes below). Slides or prints are not acceptable - it must be a digital file.  Plus save to a CD if submitting entry by post
      • FILL IN A FORM: 
        • either complete the online registration form 
        • or secure and complete the printed version.  You can download a registration pack from this website and print off the form (or get somebody to do this for you or get one to be posted to you)
      • SUBMIT ENTRY:
        • upload digital images via website
        • post digital image(s) via a CD with a completed printed form and a cheque for the fee to the Mall Galleries' office address to arrive by no later than 1 June 2011.
      • PAY: pay a fee via one of three methods
        • via paypal after you have received your login code 
        • via a credit card over the telephone
        • via a cheque by post  (for postal entries)
      Important points to note re photographs:
      • the image MUST be a digital file - either a jpeg file (JPG) (recommended) or PNG 
      • the maximum size of the digital file is 4MB 
      • the rule is one image only for each 2D work and upto three images for each 3D work
      • the recommended resolution and image size is a maximum resolution of 300dpi and maximum pixel dimensions of 1024 pixels wide or high for optimal viewing.   However the system will accept varying resolutions and image dimensions.  
      • if submitting by post the photo file needs to be saved to a CD and submitted with the entry form and a cheque for the fee
      • If you want to submit a diptych or triptych you MUST photograph these together as one image for pre-selection.
      The Mall galleries are offering help and advice to anybody why doesn't know what to do or doesn't have access to a digital camera.

      When will I hear? (Official page: Selection Notification)

      You can check whether your work has been pre-selected by logging in to the Threadneedle Prize website at noon on 8th June.  The registration numbers of all accepted works on this page by midday Wed 22 June 2011.  I'm rather hoping the press office will also publish the names of the artists as I know this is also of great interest to other artists.

      How do I submit work?  Official pages: Receiving and Collection and FAQs / Rules

      This year actual works will be delivered, unpacked, to the administrative offices of the Mall Galleries at Carlton House Terrace on either Friday 17 June 2011 or Saturday 18 June 2011.

      Prior to this there are a number of regional handing in points - to which work can be delivered AFTER the announcement has been made about which works have been selected and prior to the Mall Galleries delivery deadline.

      However only work which has been pre-selected can be delivered.  No other work will be accepted and works delivered on other dates will not be accepted.

      Do read VERY CAREFULLY all the instructions about how works must be delivered, the importance of labels and what to do if your work is not selected.

      What happens if I fail to adhere to these rules? 
      The Mall Galleries reserve the right to disqualify any work from the Prize and exhibition if the artist has failed to adhere to these rules.
      So there!  Read the instructions twice and then read them again for good luck! :)

      The Selection Panel

      The Selection Panel are an interesting and good mix - representing different aspects of the art establishment.  However I observe a bit of a bias towards London.  They are as follows (and the links go to more bio material on the website - which is very helpful)
      Julie Lomax London Head of Visual Arts, Arts Council England
      Described as a 'tireless champion' of the contemporary art community, Lomax has a reputation for seeking out emerging talent. Lomax assists countless exhibitions and art events in the capital and was voted one of the 30 most influential people in The Times Art Power List 2010.

      Lisa Milroy Artist. Works at the Slade School of Fine Art, UCL as Head of Graduate Painting
      Lisa Milroy is a Canadian still life artist who lives and works in the UK. Her career took off relatively quickly after graduating from Goldsmiths in 1982 and a major survey of Milroy's work was held at Tate Liverpool in 2001. Milroy was elected an RA in 2005. Central to her concern as a still life painter is the act of painting itself.

      Godfrey Worsdale 2011 Turner Prize Juror and Director, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art
      Godfrey Worsdale is a curator who was formerly the Founding Director of the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art. Previously he served as Curator and Director of Southampton City Art Gallery and is now Director of the BALTIC, a major cultural hub in Gateshead. Worsdale is a juror for the 2011 Turner Prize.

      The Exhibition

      The Threadneedle Prize 2011Exhibition of the work selected as finalists for the Threadneedle Prize is at the Mall Galleries between 22nd September and 8th October - which is prime exhibition viewing time in London.  The exhibition will be open every day between 10am and 5pm and entry is free.  More details of how to get to the Mall Galleries by clicking the link.

      All the works are for sale and if visit the Exhibition and can't afford one, you can alternatively vote for the work which you like the best - and know that your vote counts!

      Links:  Art Competitions in the UK - Resources for Artists

      Previous Threadneedle prizewinners:
      Threadneedle Prize 2010:
      Threadneedle Prize 2008 - 2011 - all posts on this blog

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