Monday, November 16, 2009

Exhibition Review - ING Discerning Eye 2009

Exhibition: 2009 ING Discerning Eye Exhibition 2009
Dates: 12 November - 22 November 2009
Location: Mall Galleries, The Mall, London SW1Y 5BD 10 am - 5 pm daily. Admission Free.

Lincoln Seligman: part of his selection
works: copyright the artists
photo copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I went to see the ING discerning Eye exhibition last Friday. I've always found that I relate to some judges and their selections more than others but this year I found myself this year virtually ignoring the selections made by two of the judges - as did the panel which awarded the prizes.

The ING Discerning Eye Exhibition is a show of small works independently selected by six prominent figures from different areas of the art world: two artists, two collectors and two critics.Work is selected from open submission and also from artists invited by the individual selectors.

Each section is hung separately to emphasise its own distinctive identity. The impression emerges of six small exhibitions within the whole.

The selectors are solely responsible for their own selection. The only restrictions are limitation of size (only small works are permitted) and to select at least 25% of their section from the open submission.
Some 2,500 odd pieces were submitted for the exhibition this year. 507 pieces are in the exhibition. However not all the pieces in the exhibition arrived through the open submission process as some are invited to exhibit by their curator. In the past, in my view, that's been a privilege which appears to have been abused by past selectors who have had a strong connection with certain galleries. It looks like that this hasn't happened this year or if it has it's certainly much less obvious than in previous years.

The selectors

The selectors this year were
Each selector curates one section of the exhibition, drawing their own selection from works submitted by artists and the works by artists they have personally invited. In future, I'd very much like to see in future a much clearer indication of:
  • the artists invited to exhibit by the selectors
  • those who came through the open entry
So far as I was concerned the complete star of the show was Lincoln Seligman who put together what I thought was a really interesting exhibition (section 2) which I very much enjoyed viewing. Which is interesting because he was selecting small works - mostly paintings - while he is probably best known for his large-scale sculptures and murals displayed at modern landmark buildings worldwide. However he is also a painter.

He certainly also selected by far the largest number of works (141 in section 2) which may well account in part for why I thought his selection the best. It certainly had a coherence as a whole despite the diversity of the pieces chosen - as did Julius Bryant's wall (92 pieces in section 3)

My notes tell me that he likes the figurative - but not necessarily realism. he seems to lean towards an abstracted form of realism. He chose whole sets sets of paintings rather than individual paintings or pairs. There is also a very attractive emphasis on the coastal from Cape Cod to Holkham. The hang emphased a unity of pattern, colour and style while revealing a surprising range of styles within the selection. He should run a gallery - I'd definitely want to visit and I'd be prepared to have a small wager that he "sells" the most paintings in percentage terms

I also enjoyed Julius Bryant's choices - not least because he leaned towards the sort of work he's responsible for at the V&A - prints, drawings and art books. He'd included some great pieces which demonstrate the aesthetics and value of an art book where the emphasis is on word as well as image.

I loved his choice of Alison Lambert's very impressive charcoal drawings which - for me - were by far the best thing I saw in the show.

Three of Alison Lambert's drawings (£1,950 each)
copyright Alison lambert/photo copyright Katherine Tyrrell

By way of contrast I walked fairly quickly through the selections by Gus Commins (91 works in section 1) and Jackie Wullschlager (71 pieces in section 4) which for the most part I just found plain boring. Their selections leaned towards the type of contemporary art which, while acclaimed by some, I cannot help but think has a limited shelf life.

Paintings of North Cornwall
by Barbara Hawkins
copyright Barbara Hawkins / photo copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Bowles's selection had some interesting pieces (61 works in section 5) but no real coherence at all. Llewelyn Bowen displays a penchant for pattern, collections of objects and the whimsical but chose the least works of all (51 in section 6). However he did include some paintings of Cornwall with stunning colour.


It was interesting to see how the prizes were distributed. Just look at the table below and note just how many prizes went to the section curated by Lincoln Seligman - 9 of the 13 prizes won by a singe artist and 'half' of the two prizes which were shared between two artists

Asparagus with red string
by Atsuko Fujii
copyright the artist

I didn't get this list of the prizewinners until just before I left so didn't know which were the prizewinners (no labels) as I went round - which made for a disconcerting experience. I kept thinking I'd missed them! However it was nice to see that my gut instinct for what's 'good art' is still working.

Bowles, Llewelyn Bowen and Wullschlager were completely out in the cold when it came to prizes - and I can't say I was surprised.

I think it's really unfortunate that the current prizes do not allow each of the selectors to say which they thought was the star out of the pieces they had selected.

I'm not surprised by the painting (above right) by Atsuko Fujii which won the ING Purchase Prize. It reminded me a lot of the painting in 2007 when Susan Angharad Williams won. Not in terms of subject matter so much as impact. One needs to remember that ING is a Dutch Bank and there is strong Dutch tradition of still life painting!

Collectors should note that Atsuko Fujii also won two prizes!

ING Purchase Prize


Atsuko Fujii

Asparagus with red string


Discerning Eye Founder's Purchase Prize £2,500 Robbie Wraith RPPaint tubes 2/139
Discerning Eye Chairman's Purchase Prize £1,000 Jo Fox Waiting in line 2/50
The Meynell Fenton Prize £1,000 Sarah Adams Spring tide: study 5 2/2
The Benton Huxley Purchase Prize £1,000 Sally Muir
Rob Ashdown
Naked dog
Eye contact no. 2
Parker Harris Purchase Prize for Print £1,000 Angela Smith
Paul Hawdon
Fly on the wall
The Humphreys Purchase Prize £750 Atsuko Fujii Chopsticks and plate 2/58
The V&A Acquisition Prize
Alison Lambert Head study one 3/53
East Anglia £250 Susan Taylor Yew tree on ruined wall 2/128
London & South East £250 Arthur Wilson Red Sea 1/77
Midlands £250 Maggie Kitching Seated figure 2/94
North of England £250 Kathy Little River at dusk 1/34
Scotland £250 Neil Macdonald Dunottar 2/98
Wales £250 Stephanie Tuckwell Hover 1/64
West Country £250 Myles Oxenford Black dog 2/110

and finally..........

A moan.

I absolutely HATED the labelling and catalogue for the exhibition. I want a label which tells me what the title is, who painted/created it and the price. All that each exhibit had was a number. That's making the visitor work overtime. Which is not a good idea in a recession. What's more you then have to consult the catalogue which is tightly bound in a way which makes it both difficult to open and it won't lie flat at all. Having managed to open it partway, you then find that you only get the name, title and price - which should have been on the wall in the first place!!! So what purpose is the catalogue? A way of generating funds to cover the expenses of the exhibition? That just comes across as mealymouthed - and I know ING is a bank but surely they don't want to look like they're short of funds?

What's more none of the prizewinners were labelled when I entered the exhibition late Friday afternoon despite the fact the exhibition had opened to public on the previous day and the prizewinners had already been announced at the private view. Not helpful to reviewers.

End of moan.


1 comment:

  1. Great Post, Katherine, thanks for that. Will enjoy browsing around the website of the prize winners.
    I agree with your 'moan'. The Royal West of England Academy of Art has its autumn exhibition and there is the same problem: just numbers with the paintings and you have to pay £2 to buy the catalogue which then tells you what is what. They had also hung lists of what is what on doors, but you walk around forever trying to find on which list and which door a certain number is mentioned...What on earth is wrong with the good old label....


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