Saturday, November 12, 2011

Review: ING Discerning Eye Exhibition 2011

I went to the Private View of the 2011 ING Discerning Eye Exhibition last night.  I was especially looking forward to seeing what two of the selectors had chosen.

The PV has closed but they don't want to go home!
End wall (on left) - Ossian Ward; wall on right - John Pluthero
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 from artists invited by the individual selectors. Each selector's section is hung separately giving the impression of six small exhibitions within the whole.
During the Artists' Private View - a very crowded gallery!
Over the nineteen years the exhibition has been running, around 30,000 works have passed through the open submission process and more than £1,000,000 sales achieved.  This during the good and the bad times.  Discerning Eye Chairman's Statement 2011
The selectors

I've listed this year’s selectors below along with some brief comments about the work they picked. The job of the selectors is to choose from publicly submitted works and also to invite artists to display work.

You can view the works selected by each of the selectors online.  A link to their selected works follows their profile


Eileen Cooper RA Eileen Cooper is a painter and printmaker, Royal Academician and Head of the Printmaking Department at the Royal Academy Schools.  (Number of works selected/invited: 127)

Her profile suggests she has a passion for works on paper and in particular for markmaking on paper - and her display very much reflects this passion.

Unsurprisingly she chose quite a few prints and monochromatic works - with an emphasis on mark-making on paper and I liked rather a lot of it.  The use of line for making marks is what stood out from her selection when viewed from the other side of the room.  Looked at as a whole it was a very coherent and articulate selection.

Deer by Mila Furstova
Winner of the ING Staff Prize

(this work will now be donated to the Paintings in Hospital Scheme)

Lisa Wright is an artist who won the Hunting Prize in 2003 and regular exhibits at the Summer Exhibition.  (Number of works selected/invited: 92)

It wasn't a selection which resonated with me.  However, her selection included the winner of the ING Purchase Prize.


Brian Sewell Art Critic (Number of works selected/invited: 99

At last we got to see what sort of art Brian would choose if left to his own devices in a room full of art!

Selection by Brian Sewell (1)

Selection by Brian Sewell (2) - more muted palette

and then came the colour!

Selection by Brian Sewell (3) - the colour arrives
What struck me was a preoccupation with portraiture, draughtsmanship and drawing - his selection included some excellent drawings - and a very (very!) muted palette.  Until we turn the corner and look at the wall facing west and admire the very graphic work he also selected at which point the colour exploded off the wall.

I must confess however I just kept staring at most of the works within the main part of the hand and wondered why so many lacked any impact in terms of colour.

Overall, this was one of the mini-exhibitions which I liked the best - there were lots of works I liked a lot.  However I'd have liked it even better with a bit more colour.

Ossian Ward, Visual Arts Editor, Time Out (Number of works selected/invited: 92)

Ossian Ward seems to be a man who likes a landscape.  There were a lot of them - approached in different ways and it has to be said with differing degrees of success.  I liked some and not others - but there's probably enough range for everybody to find something they like.

It was also rather difficult to get to see his work as a bench had been placed quite close to the end wall and groups of people seemed to be in permanent and deep discussion in front of the artwork - unaware that others were trying to view the work!


John Deston, Gallery Manager, The Mall Galleries, London (Number of works selected/invited: 115

I very much liked the hang of this part of the exhibition - which is located in the East gallery and part of the Entrance Level.  It's a very coherent exhibition - it's not only hung well, the pieces hand together in each other's company well.

A set of small fine art prints by Annie Williams
- an eminently collectable artist as any work by Annie Williams
always looks good next to any other work by Annie Williams
In part this display is also an education (as one might expect given John's occupation) in art by artists who win prizes and sell paintings!  It included a lot of people I recognised and overall seemed to me to give a very good account of a traditional (small 't') Mall Galleries perspective on contemporary art.

Cog hare by Harriet Mead PSWLA
Winner of the Humpreys Prize
I particularly liked the four works by David Lilley - one of which (top right below) won the Lincoln Seligman Prize.

Part of John Deston's selection
Umbra by David Lilley - Winner of Lincoln Seligman Prize - is top right

What's cooking? by Bill Dean
Winner of The Discerning Eye Prize - Chairmans's Purchase Prize

Box 8 by Arron Kuiper
Winner of Meynell Fenton Prize

John Pluthero, Chairman of Cable & Wireless Worldwide and founder of abstract critical (Number of works selected/invited: 86

This seemed to me to be rather more of an eclectic mix.  To me, the selection when seen on the wall, didn't hang together quite so well as some of the other displays.

I was also rather surprised to find that I was much less keen on Tai-Shan Schierenburg's work when it's reduced in size (see works on Discerning Eye website).  Somehow those large brushes and brushmarks seem to need bigger canvases.

The exhibition

There seem to be many more works than usual.  I counted 611 works in total of which a small proportion were sculptures - although the latter did rather better in terms of winning prizes.

I haven't got figures yet as to the numbers derived from selection from the open exhibition entry and those invited by the selectors but I'll be trying to find out and will post the figures here when I have them.
The ING Discerning Eye has built an enviable reputation in the art world.  The quality of the selectors has been extremely high, the chosen work of excellent quality.  Curators and gallery owners know this and visit the exhibition to spot new talent that can be promoted in their own shows.Discerning Eye Chairman's Statement 2011
Olympic Stadium with Cranes II by Anne Desmet RA
Winner of the V & A Acquisition Prize
The prizewinners

Brian Sewell won the secondary 'contest' to see which selector's choice of artwork attracts the most prizes!

What was interesting to see as I went through identifying the artist's websites (click the link in their names to see their websites) was that a number of these artists have won a fair few prizes between them including winners of the BP Portrait Prize and the Threadneedle Prize.  There's also the Editor of Printmaking Today (see right) who produced an excellent print of the Olympic Stadium - with cranes. (I think I'm right in saying that additional prints can be purchased of this work).

I was rather surprised by the work which won the ING Purchase Prize which marks something of a departure from the pattern of works selected in recent years.  I can only imagine that somebody new within ING is now influencing their purchasing police!

Ocean Current by Neil Canning
Winner of the ING Purchase Prize (£5,000)

The artists marked with an asterisk * below had their work selected through the open submission.  Many thanks to the Discerning Eye for making this more explicit than hitherto

The prizes were awarded as follows:

PrizeArtistWorkCat no.
ING Purchase Prize (£5,000)Neil CanningOcean Current2/17
The Discerning Eye Founders Prize 1 Dean MarshBee3.57
£2,500 - shared by 3 people2 Dean MarshStag beetle head, white3/58
3 Harriet MeadCalliper earwig5/81
ING Staff Prize (£1,000)Mila FurstovaDeer1/32
The Discerning Eye Chairman's Purchase Prize (£1,000) Bill Dean *What's cooking6/15
Meynell Fenton Prize (£1,000)Arron Kuiper *Box 86/37
The Humphreys Purchase Prize (£750)Harriet MeadCog hare5/82
Lincoln Selligman Prize (£1,000)David LilleyUmbra5/72
The Benton Prize (£1,000)David Brayne *White Tulips3/15
The Hicks Prize (£1,000)Stephen Palmer *Shooters Hill, Blackheath3/69
City AM Prize  1Jane BondChinese Doll3/8
V & A Acquisition Prize (added to one of the national collections at the Victoria and Albert Museum)Anne Desmet RAOlympic Stadium with cranes II1/23
Regional Prizes
(£250 each)
ArtistWorkCat no.
East AngliaFfiona Lewis *Empty Pot2/41
London & South EastTrevor Burgess *A Place to Live 114/12
MidlandsDuncan WoodHope Valley3/94
North of EnglandPiers Browne *June Evening, Wensleydale5/18
ScotlandPatricia CainRiverside Scaffolding VA5/21
WalesDanny Markey *Blue and White Footballers2/50
West CountryChristopher BramhamGarden Pots3/12
Drawing Bursary (£1,000 winner)Jason Sumray

Tips for Artists

If you're thinking of maybe submitting to this art competition next year here are a few things you might might want to ponder on.
  • Little is beautiful!  Those selectors having more works in their display tended to have chosen more smaller works.  It's not evident that smaller works are more likely to be selected but logic suggests that larger works might be less likely to be selected unless they are by a "name" or by an invited artist (ie don't assume the large works in the show are mainly from the open entry!).  
  • It's worth taking a look at who the judges are and what their interests are.  If you're a good match it's definitely worth submitting work.
  • Think about how your work suits the constraints on dimensions - scale is important.  Not everybody who normally works large necessarily suits working small.  
  • It sometimes pays to think about how to change your subject matter so that you can work small in a way which suits you best.   
  • A lot of work is hung in this exhibition and, as you can see from the photographs, there's not a lot of space in-between artwork.  A shrewd judgement needs to be made about much matt and/or frame needs to be allowed to create a space to allow the work to be seen.  This then needs to be weighed up without the constraints that spacewise one larger work = two smaller works and there's no way of knowing which way selectors will lean on size.
  • This is an excellent exhibition for printmakers to submit to.  Selectors can choose more than one work and prints obviously lend themselves well to multiple sales - as could be see at the private view.
Have you been to see the exhibition?  Or are you planning to do so?  The exhibition continues until 20 November at the Mall Galleries

Do leave a comment below and tell me what you think.



    1. Thanks for this Katherine, very interesting, guess I'm going to miss a few important events being here in France. Good to be able to get an intelligent impression of it though online. Interesting to see how the various selections stand against each other and very suprised at Monsieur Sewell's contrasting selections. Thanks again very enjoyable

    2. Thank you Katherine for this very informative blog and the link through to one of our artists, Danny Markey. We have now linked to your blog on ours as this is such a fabulous resource for anyone interested in art.


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