Sunday, May 09, 2021

A major change in those shortlisted for the Turner Prize

Last week, Tate Britain announced the shortlist for the Turner Prize 2021 - and the shortlist comprises five art collectives.

One of the world’s best-known prizes for the visual arts, the Turner Prize aims to promote public debate around new developments in contemporary British art. Established in 1984, the prize is named after the radical British painter JMW Turner (1775-1851). The Turner Prize winner is awarded £25,000 with £10,000 going to each of the others shortlisted. 

This year they seem to be in two minds about whether it's about art or a very wide definition of the visual arts.

I've absolutely no problem with 

  • the prize being about the Visual Arts 
  • or with it focusing on arts grounded in the community 
I do have a problem with the use of the term "art" - and then shutting out of all those engaged in the fine arts of drawing and painting!!

As in historically, the Turner Prize jury has shortlisted four artists for an outstanding exhibition or other presentation.

I must confess I increasingly think that the organisers are interpreting its intent to be more and more about "The Arts" as opposed to art. Otherwise, why would they be substituting for the British Film Institute in providing recognition and prizes for films? Alternatively why isn't Tate Britain joining forces with the BFI if it intends to include the ubiquitous 'film' as media for future shortlists.

My personal view is that the current version of the Prize should become wholly independent of Tate Britain (and instead be run by a collegiate co-operative of different organisations relevant to the Visual Arts - including video / sound / film / digital arts / broadcast media) and Tate Britain should go back to providing a prize for contemporary fine art - including fine arts which increasingly get excluded and left on the fringe.

In other words "Contemporary Fine Art" is NOT "The Arts" - and this is not the Oscars or any of the other awards associated with popular arts-related culture!

Shortlist for the Turner Prize 2021

This year, the shortlist consists entirely of art collectives who have been listed for their recent projects and activities.

I'm guessing this has partly been prompted by the major absence of exhibition for most of 2020/21 - and hence the usual basis for selection evaporated. They could hardly make a selection based solely on those who were lucky enough to have an exhibition open in the very tight window of last summer.

So the Turner Prize organisers have made a positive out of a negative

“One of the great joys of the Turner Prize is the way it captures and reflects the mood of the moment in contemporary British art. After a year of lockdowns when very few artists have been able to exhibit publicly, the jury has selected five outstanding collectives whose work has not only continued through the pandemic but become even more relevant as a result.” Alex Farquharson, Director of Tate Britain and Chair of the Turner Prize jury

The nominees - who will each be receiving at least £10,000 each - are:

  • Array Collective, 
  • Black Obsidian Sound System, 
  • Cooking Sections, 
  • Gentle/Radical, and 
  • Project Art Works.

Turner Prize Exhibition

The other change is that the exhibition will not visit Tate Britain.

An exhibition of the Collectives' work will be held at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry from 29 September 2021 to 12 January 2022 as part of the UK City of Culture 2021 celebrations. 

The winner of the Turner Prize will be announced on 1 December 2021 at an award ceremony at Coventry Cathedral covered on the BBC.

The members of the 2021 Turner Prize jury are:
  • Aaron Cezar, Director, Delfina Foundation
  • Kim McAleese, Programme Director, Grand Union
  • Russell Tovey, Actor
  • ZoĆ© Whitley, Director, Chisenhale Gallery
  • Alex Farquharson, Director, Tate Britain (Chair)

Shortlisted Art Collectives

All the nominees work closely and continuously with communities across the breadth of the UK to inspire social change through art. The collaborative practices selected for this year’s shortlist also reflect the solidarity and community demonstrated in response to the pandemic

Below is the information provided about each collective - PLUS

  • The names of those identified in the extended press release
  • the address and screenshot of their website (where this could be identified).

Saturday, May 08, 2021

Virtual Tour and Award Winners: Royal Society of Portrait Painters 130th Annual Exhibition

I wasn't at the opening day of the 130th Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters - because I was getting my second Pfizer vaccination! (I'm planning to go Monday or Tuesday next week.)

However, you and I can take a look at the exhibition right now via 

We can also view the portraits by the artists who have been awarded prizes and awards in 2021- and these are listed below - with links to both the portraits and artists' websites. 

It's interesting to note how many portraits are self-portraits or portraits of members of the family - a situation which I guess has confronted a lot of portrait painters this year.

Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition2021: Award winners 

    William Lock Portrait Prize: Frances Bell RP - for Self Portrait 

    £20,000 for the most timeless portrait with a real feeling for paint and its aesthetic potential. 
    Self Portrait by Frances Bell

    I've long been a supporter of Frances Bell whose style works incredibly well for certain sitters - particularly children and women. Besides being a masterful draughtsperson - in terms of accuracy and representation of her subject - I love her very painterly and fluid use of oil and brushwork. (She also paints great landscapes!)

    Last year the same self-portrait was also selected as a finalist among another 22 paintings, from 2600 entries for the Portrait Society of America's Annual Exhibition in 2020.

    Frances Bell is a full time professional portrait and landscape painter. She has shown her paintings in numerous exhibitions including the Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition - where she has shown since 2005; the BP Portrait Award; and annual exhibitions of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters; the Royal Society of British Artists; the Royal Society of Marine Artists; The Society of Wildlife Artists, the Society of Women Artists. 

    She makes some very interesting comments about the process of creating a self-portrait in this video (below). I'm sure very many portrait painters will recognise and empathise with what she has to say


      TIP FOR ARTISTS: Remember to film videos for websites in landscape format - not portrait - which somehow seems very ironic to me! :) 

        The Ondaatje Prize for Portraiture - Saied Dai RP NEAC for Portrait of the Artist's Wife

        £10,000 plus the Society’s Gold Medal awarded for the most distinguished portrait in the Society’s annual exhibition. 

        Saied Dai has a unique style and I can always recognise his paintings on the wall before I've looked at the catalogue. He's a figurative Artist who both lives and works in Bath.

        His award is for a portrait of his wife, the artist Charlotte Sorapure - whose paintings I also like a lot!

        He trained at the Royal Academy of Arts in London and was made a member of The Royal Society of Portrait Painters in 2004 and The New English Art Club in 2009. He has exhibited widely. He paints on a gesso panel and describes how he works in the video below.


          The RP Award: Phoebe Dickinson for Alethea

          £2,000 awarded to the artist whose work best represents the year's chosen theme - which for 2021 is 'Childhood'. The judges looked for the most interesting and engaging interpretation of the idea of 'childhood' within the parameters of portraiture. 

          Wednesday, May 05, 2021

          Four artists shortlisted for the Windrush Monument at Waterloo Station

          The names of the four artists shortlisted to create the planned Windrush Monument were announced last week. Their designs for the Monument - which will be located at Waterloo Station - will be displayed around the country this summer.
          Images of the shortlisted artists
          (L to R: Jeannette Ehlers, Thomas J Price, Valda Jackson, Basil Watson)

          This post covers:
          • the aim of the Windrush Monument
          • the shortlisted artists
          • arrangements for consultation with the Caribbean community in the UK.


          The Windrush Monument

          The Windrush Monument will be a permanent tribute to a generation of arrivals from the Caribbean to Britain – from the arrival of MV Empire Windrush in 1948 and in the decades that followed.  Artist shortlist for national Windrush Monument revealed |Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government and Windrush Commemoration Committee 

          The aim of the Monument

          The intention is that the Monument will be:
          • An ambitious public artwork 
          • A testament to the contribution of Caribbean pioneers in communities across the United Kingdom. 
          • A visible statement of shared history and heritage
          • A permanent place of reflection and inspiration. 
          Specifically the monument will recognise how the Windrush Generation have - over the last 70 years:
          • enriched the history of the UK
          • made invaluable contributions to all aspects of British life, from our health and transport services to our politics, businesses, literature and culture. 

          That's quite a challenge for any artist!


          Location: Waterloo Station

          Waterloo station in London is where thousands of Windrush pioneers first arrived in London, after the M.V. Windrush docked at Tilbury, before starting new lives across the UK. 
          The station's strong association with the stories of many members of the Windrush Generation means it was chosen as the location for the sculpture - to celebrate their arrival and contribution to the UK.
          I remember vividly my own moment of arrival, as a 10 year old – stepping off the train and standing on Platform 19 at Waterloo Station. That spot, familiar to so many of us and our parents, is less than a few hundred metres from where the Windrush monument will stand in perpetuity. Baroness Floella Benjamin DBE
          The intention is that the Windrush Monument will be unveiled on Windrush Day 2022.


          Shortlisted artists

          Unsurprisingly, the four artists shortlisted to design the monument are all of Caribbean descent. Two are from the UK and two are based outside the UK - but have a Caribbean heritage.

          They include world renowned, established and up and coming artists working across the visual arts. 

          The artists were selected by the Windrush Commemoration Committee (WCC), chaired by Baroness Floella Benjamin DBE. 

          The four artists chosen to make up the final shortlist are listed below. Links to their websites are embedded in their names.

          Tuesday, May 04, 2021

          The King's Painter: The Life and Times of Hans Holbein by Franny Moyle

          Hans Holbein the Younger - a self portrait

          Yesterday I started listening to podcast The King's Painter: The Life and Times of Hans Holbein on BBC Sounds on my iPhone. 

          It's Book of the Week this week - and there's an episode being broadcast every day. Each is available on BBC Sounds for 30 days from the date of the first broadcast. 

          The thing I love about BBC Sounds is you can save them up and (my personal favourite) download them and then splurge on listening to a number of episodes while taking a walk - or chopping the vegetables....

          The book by Franny Moyle isn't published until later this month (see below). She's apparently got a good track record of analysing painter's methods (having also written about Turner) - but I've not got to that bit yet

          The reader is the theatre and television actor Sir Simon Russell Beale. I was left wondering if he was chosen for a certain likeness to Holbein himself - or maybe Henry VIII - whose portrait Holbein famously painted.....

          That's because, to be honest, Beale reads rather too fast for my liking and without enough change of pace or intonation. See what you think.

          However, when it comes to the book, I'm getting a very good impression. Content wise, the book is fascinating about his background and family and the ways of the world for artists and artisans in 16th century Europe. I'm looking forward to Episodes 2-5 of this story of the extraordinary life of this outstanding artist of the 16th century.

          This is the synopsis.

          Hans Holbein the Younger became court painter to Henry VIII and was regarded as a phenomenon in his day for his ability to bring the characters he painted to life.

          His famous portrait of the Tudor King was so life like spectators fully expected arms and legs to move. One of his paintings of the dead Christ was so alarming that, when the Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky saw it in 1867, he was so troubled by it that his wife had to drag him away fearing he might have an epileptic fit.

          Holbein observed the extraordinary events of his century up close and painted the movers and shakers of the age including Desiderius Erasmus, Thomas More, Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII, as well as the various women lined up to become the wives of the king, such as Anne of Cleves.

          He was a contributor to the history of book design as well as designing jewellery, and elaborate weaponry. With a family in Basel and another in London, his life was as colourful as the times he lived through.


          Hans Holbein the Younger

          Hans Holbein the Younger (1497 - 1543) was an extraordinarily talented draftsman and painter from a very young age. He went on to become one of the most important painters in 16th century Europe.

          He has long been a favourite painter of mine - but I don't know a lot about him other than the research I did for a couple of previous posts (below) - which includes references to more information about him


          Lady with a Squirrel
          - one of my favourite Holbein portraits

          I also produced a website About Hans Holbein - Famous Portrait Painter which I must transfer at some point to a better platform 

          My sketch from
          the Holbein Exhibition at the Tate (2007)
          from the days when I routinely took
          sketchbook, pen and coloured pencils
          to all exhibitions


          The King's Painter: The Life and Times of Hans Holbein by Franny Moyle

          Monday, May 03, 2021

          Are art galleries and museums a target for "cancel culture" or mob rule?

          There appears to be a new "cancel culture" being applied to art galleries and museums.

          Incidents and events promoting change

          Last week the Museum of Modern Art in New York became the target of a group who want to protest about the influence of very rich people on the systems and values of art museums.

          Specifically the Strike MOMA campaign were upset about a number of aspects - including:

          • the existence of MOMA as a monument to the acquisition by the wealthy few at the expense of the dispossessed
          • the fact that the Museum had allegedly said nothing about the financial ties between (the recently replaced) Leon Black, Chair of the Board of MOMA and Jeffrey Epstein
          • alleged ties between specific board members and systems of power and exclusion
          • disparities in the way employees are treated and the huge differentials between those at the top and those at the frontline

          A protest took place and people got hurt - on both sides.

          I think it's safe to say this might be a recurrent theme for many art galleries and museums in the future

          The museum, citing safety concerns, closed its doors to the protesters who say MoMA caters too much to the interests of its wealthy donors. (New York Times)


          The doors of the Museum of Modern Art
          when they reopened - on 21st October 2019 (the day after I flew out!)
          following a very extensive extension and refurbishment of MOMA
          to create a reimagined presentation of modern and contemporary art.


          This is what MOMA has to say about itself

          At The Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1, we celebrate creativity, openness, tolerance, and generosity. We aim to be inclusive places—both onsite and online—where diverse cultural, artistic, social, and political positions are welcome. We’re committed to sharing the most thought-provoking modern and contemporary art, and hope you will join us in exploring the art, ideas, and issues of our time. MOMA - About us

          My view

          Is rejecting philanthropy and insisting that public collections should be oriented towards social justice the best way forward for all major art galleries and museums? 
          My views on this topic are as follows