Thursday, September 02, 2010

Threadneedle Prize 2010 Exhibition opens today

Visit the Mall Galleries from today to see the 46 works selected from more than 2,100 works submitted for the Threadneedle Prize 2010.

This year the £25,000 Threadneedle prize has been determined for the first time by the Selectors - but the result won't be announced until 15th September.  However you can vote for your favourite work to win the  £10,000 Visitors' Choice Award from the 7 shortlisted artworks if you visit the gallery. 
  • The exhibition is at the Mall Galleries and continues until 18th September.  
  • You can also view the exhibition online on the Threadneedle Prize website.
Both prizes will be announced at an awards ceremony and dinner on 15 September (I've been invited this year!). Voting for the Visitors' Choice Award ends at 12pm on 15 September.
The Threadneedle Prize showcases the best new figurative and representational art in Britain today. Its purpose is to encourage artists with real commitment and vision to submit fresh, powerful and intriguing work created especially for the competition.
So what's different about the Threadneedle Prize in 2010?

This year, in some ways, the story is about how works were selected for the exhibition for the Threadneedle Prize

The selectors all agreed that they wanted to work in a different way from previous years.  As a result they've worked much more collaboratively so that they all agreed every piece which is in the exhibition.  In effect they have curated an exhibition based on their agreed preferences about the sort of work which should be in the exhibition.  What has happened as a result is that it has a greater feeling of unity plus there also themes which can be detected running through the exhibition.

Threadneedle Prize 2010: The Selectors
(Left to right) Michael Sandle RA, David Rayson and Dr Xavier Bray
It's maybe not surprising given that the type of people chosen to be selectors have also changed.  Gone are the commercial gallery owners, previous winners and art critics!  Instead, in 2010 the selectors are:
  • Dr Xavier Bray (Assistant Curator at the National Gallery), 
  • David Rayson (Professor of Painting at the Royal College of Art) and 
  • Michael Sandle RA (Fellow of the Royal British Society of Sculptors).
They all agreed that they were interested in artists who possessed a "strong instinctive quality" and a "unique way of looking at and interpreting the world around them"

In practical terms this meant that they rejected derivative work and work which 'copies' popular styles - a lesson I guess for a number of artists who enter competitions!  If a style of painting is familar then the subject matter is less familiar - or at least it should be in principle.

The themes I made a note of are:  the urban landscape, terrorism, structures in nature and challenges to perception which some might call 'visual trickery'.  The underlying theme for me was about people looking at the world they were living in and creating original contemporary art directly based on their observation - whether or not it's attractive in the conventional sense of the world.

To my mind this has created a much more genuinely figurative exhibition than any of the ones we've seen so far. 

I saw the exhibition yesterday at the Preview and here are a few of the things which have stuck in my head today
  • fewer works than in previous years - about 10 less.  This has left curious gaps in the galleries where it looks like a work should be hung.  To my mind it needed at least six more works to round out the exhibition
  • fewer figures than in previous years - people where included are much more likely to be 'of the place' 
  • more monochrome - it was good to see works on paper with charcoal on paper and etchings being the favoured formats
  • less to 'like' - in the sense that some of the subject matter reflecting the world we live in is quite grim - and, let's not beat about the bush here, the exhibition also includes some works that I certainly wouldn't have chosen!
  • more works that I really like a lot!  I'm going to be doing a post later which gives you "the Making A Mark shortlist".  I will however give a shout-out at this stage to Valerie Jolly for Plexus which grabbed my attention from across the room and Garry Martin for "It's a Bloomin' Marble!" which had me walking round and round it in admiration.  They're both sculptures!
  • I haven't got a clue who's going to win.  There's no "standout winner" for me when I looked at the shortlisted pieces in reality - although I did vote.  My vote went to the painting which I remembered when I woke up the next day after writing about the shortlist
One work on the shortlist does not work well as a photograph - so here it is again in three photos!  It's based on a generic WW2 pill box that has been left to erode somewhere on the coast of Britain.  The sequence of photos pretty much represents your experience as you view it - except there's a nice gentle wind effect as well.  Smellyvision would have added to the experience as I also remember these pill boxees well from my youth.

Den by Stuart McCaffer
top - from the outside
middle - what you see as you open the door and your eyes begin to adjust
bottom - what you loook at through the slits
Threadneedle Prize 2010 Events

This year the Threadneedle Prize introduces two exciting events during the exhibition which will present selected artists with increased exposure for their works.
Critics' View
Wednesday 8 September, 1-2pm
Leading critics and commentators choose one work from the exhibition and explain what they like about the work and why they’ve chosen it.  Then it’s your turn to ask them questions.
  • Matthew Collings, art critic and broadcaster
  • Bettany Hughes, historian, author and broadcaster
  • Jeremy Paxman, journalist, author and BBC presenter
  • Jon Snow, journalist and Channel 4 broadcaster
Admission free with entry to the exhibition.

Debate: Who gets the money? Arts Funding in Crisis
Monday 13 September, 6-8pm
With major cuts in public services looming,  and national and local government funds reserved for the 2012 Cultural Olympiad, who gets the money in a funding crisis? Join our debate to see where the money for the arts should be targeted.
  • Ekow Eshun - Director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA)
  • Clare O'Brien - Director of Development at the Wallace Collection
  • Brian Sewell - Evening Standard art critic
Admission £5 (concessions £2.50, including FBA Friends, students and over 60s). Wine available.
I've got my ticket for the latter and I'm going to try and get to the Critics' View as well.  Do let me know if you're going to either.

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