- why this Prize is so very different - and
- why it's much more representative this year!
Three female winners to date
Well first off - and this is a really important point to emphasise - to date, the first three winners of the Prize were all women!
What's more they weren't brand new artists fresh from college with people to impress and places to go.
No - these were female professional artists in mid career between the ages of 35 and 50 for whom the Threadneedle Prize was an important stage in the development of both their art and their career. Which suggests that this is very much a Prize that people at every stage of their careers can aspire to.
Increasing interest from students
The registrations in 2011 show a 5% increase in registrations received from art students. It's worth remembering that one of the shortlisted artists in the first year had only just graduated with a degree in fine art - and had submitted her entry while still a student. Being shortlisted for a prize like this is something which is worth having on a CV at any stage of your career - but particularly if you are a young artist.
In broad terms the age profile of the 2011 entry has not changed much so far. This year there are slightly fewer entries from the 35-44 category - which has provided the majority of entries to date - but this could be because more younger and older people are now coming forward because of the digital entry process.
Digital entry is making a huge difference to who enters in 2011
In 2008, 2009 and 2010, up to 80% of the entrants were based in and around London. Obviously that's not a fair representation of the excellent figurative and representational art that's being made around the country. Last year's winner for example lives in Glasgow in Scotland.
However with the advent of the digital entry - which means people don't have the expense of getting the work to London unless they pass the initial selection hurdle - many more people from around the country have entered.
As at 13th May, only one third of those applying via the digital entry live in and around London.
Compared to last year, there have been increased entries via the digital submission compared to the same week last year.
From which one can conclude that the digital entry process is proving to be a roaring success since it's enabling a more representative profile of entries from across both the country and the age ranges.
A different sort of profile
The Mall Galleries where the Threadneedle Prize exhibition is held is the home of the Federation of British Artists - which, in turn, is the society which unites the leading art societies in the UK.
Interestingly, FBA members entering the Theadneedle Prize are only between 2% and 4% of the total entry - in all four years of the show to date.
What this means for visitors to the Exhibition is that the artwork on display is going to be unlike that seen in the art society exhibitions which are held there during the rest of the year - because the majority is going to have been created by a very wide range of non-members of the FBA Societies.
Speaking personally, I think it would be good to see a few more FBA members competing. These are all societies with a strong representational bias and, in theory, this competition is a good fit. Certainly a significant number of FBA artists could enter - and some have 'twigged' how selection for art competitions tends to vary from the selection of work for the annual exhibitions of art societies.
After all they have the illustrious example of Daphne Todd the ex President of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, who won the BP Portrait Prize last year with her portrait of her mother just after death!
However Daphne is yet another woman....
Maybe that's the extra added ingredient which makes for a successful entry - being a woman? ;) I wonder if the chaps are up for giving them a bit of serious competition this year?
The deadline for entry for the 2011 Prize and Exhibition is Wednesday 1st June and the pre-selection registration process is by digital entry.