Saturday, July 30, 2016

National Trust: second open call for artisans and craft makers

Did you know that the retail arm of the National Trust collaborates with craftspeople and artisans to produce artisan products?
The National Trust and The Heritage Crafts Association and the Craft Council are excited to announce our second open call for artisans and craft makers.
They have just announced their second open call for people to develop a range of products inspired by places looked after by the National Trust and sold via the National Trust shops and websites.  The deadline for applications is 4pm on Monday 29th August, 2016.

It occurs to me that there are more than a few people who follow this blog who could probably deliver what they want.  Obviously those who work in ceramics but also those who create art and products based on natural history, wildlife and botanical subjects.

The National Trust also commissions people to produce work for them.

For information: 

  • This is a video about Mary Kaun-English who produces Pit-fire Ceramics and who won the last call. Despite her name she is actually a Californian by birth. You can see her NT artisan ceramics on their site.

  • This is a page of stoneware birds made by Elissa Palser
  • The NT also commissions people to make things for them - for example from trees which have fallen on estates. Last summer, the National Trust commissioned London based wood artist Eleanor Lakelin to create a collection of beautiful vessels crafted from a cedar tree that had been planted by the Duke of Wellington in 1827 - which led to this page. You can also see her work on Instagram.
Wood art by Eleanor Lakelin
I must confess I'm a bit of a wood nut and the thing I'm most likely to be drawn to are pieces made of wood. 

Friday, July 29, 2016

BP Sponsorship of the Arts - latest developments

Back in January this year I wrote about how Tate's BP funding figures revealed - less than expected.

The Guardian announced this morning that an Information Tribunal has now ordered the Tate to release more information. (see The Guardian | Tate Britain ordered to reveal how much BP paid for sponsorship)
This week, an information tribunal ordered that Tate must also disclose figures from 2007 to 2011 within 35 days. In a statement Tate said: “Tate has been notified of the tribunal’s decision, which we shall follow. We will respond within the time frame.”
The Guardian | Tate Britain ordered to reveal how much BP paid for sponsorship
I've not yet found the decision notice for this - it's certainly NOT on the Information Commissioner's website (as I write).

This is a summary of the hearing back in May when the Tribunal heard representations from all parties regarding the withholding of information by the Tate.

This 'decision' comes on top of

One might conclude - given the drop in profits - that arts companies could easily have been looking at a really big "black hole" in their finances had the change in BP's financial fortunes led to non-renewal of the sponsorship.

It's one thing to say BP is not the right sponsor for the arts. However it's quite another to make sure arts organisations are adequately funded in appropriate ways!

It's naive for protesters to think that any commercial sponsor will provide funding unless there is some sort of benefit for their product or brand. 

It is however entirely legitimate to ask how the relationship between the sponsor and  the sponsored organisation is managed - and whether this complies with all relevant legislation and conduct codes.

Protest at BP sponsorship of the arts

The Art Not Oil Coalition - who are part of the part of the international movement for #FossilFreeCulture - has been damning BP for a long time. It published a report in May 2016 - see BP’s cultural sponsorship: A corrupting influence.

Report by the Art not Oil Coalition (published May 2016)

This drew on information gleaned from a lot of emails released under the Freedom of Information Act.  I do wonder if all the staff at museums and art galleries got the training that government staff got when the Act Act came into force. I think maybe some of the HR people in museums and art galleries might like to think about some "refresher training".

An awful lot of the report relates to issues around the security response to their activities and asks questions like
Ethical questions raised Why are security personnel at publicly-funded cultural institutions discussing shared anti-protest measures with a corporate sponsor and oil company? In whose interests do security personnel act when responding to legitimate protest?
Given the tendency of protestors to hurl around oil and gain entrance to museums before they start their protest, I personally would have thought the answer to that question was self-evident.

In addition, large iconic buildings tend to be targeted by those wanting to cause mischief and  terror - and if a corporate sponsor wants to offer support in relation to security, I'm not sure why management would see fit to turn it away. After all, not all philanthropic support needs to be by way of funding.

Part 2 of the Report relates to BP-sponsored curators and directors (pages 16-19) and is more interesting. It includes comment on the on the extent to which BP influences the work of the Museums and raises some legitimate questions within the context of the The International Council of Museums: Code of Ethics, Article 1.1 which states
‘Regardless of funding source, museums should maintain control of the content and integrity of their programmes, exhibitions and activities.’
Interestingly the BP Portrait Award is the only competition I can think of where a representative of BP sits on the selection panel for the competition. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Imagine Georgia O'Keeffe on television

The latest episode in the current series of Imagine on BBC1 is a programme about Georgia O'Keeffe: By Myself. It's timed to coincide with the major exhibition of her work at Tate Modern - Georgia O'Keeffe.

I'm guessing as an artist she doesn't need much of an introduction to the people who read this blog (see Georgia O'Keeffe at Tate Modern - a review of the exhibition reviews which reference the many blog posts I've written about her)

This is how the BBC introduces her
On the brink of the Depression in 1929, Georgia O'Keeffe - America's first great modernist painter - headed west. In the bright light of the New Mexico desert, she forged an independent life and found the solitude she needed for her truly original art.

The photographs taken of her by her older lover scandalised the public. Her flower forms were seen as a shocking and vibrant display of femininity, her bones and skulls as surreal and disturbing. Now, 30 years after her death, to coincide with a major Tate Modern show, imagine... tells the story of Georgia O'Keeffe, one of the most inspiring artists ever.
It adds
Imagine tells her story, through film of her charting her own progress through life, through her outspoken letters, especially the many thousands to and from Alfred Stieglitz, through his photographs, her paintings, and interviews with her surviving relations and artists who have fallen under her influence.

We visit the farm where she was born, the New York college where she studied back in 1906, the skyscraper hotel where she lived with Stieglitz, Lake George where she often felt suffocated but did much of her most beautiful work and the legendary landscapes of New Mexico, with her two extraordinary houses there. We find an inspiring, honest and witty woman, and a truly original artist.
The film is fronted by Alan Yentob - who meets her biographer, surviving relatives, friends and acquaintances - and was produced and directed by Jill Nicholls.

You can view it on iPlayer for the next 29 days.

Alan Yentob with the famous
Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1 - painted by Georgia O'Keeffe in 1932

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Plagiarism: Major corporates vs Indie Artists

I've spotted another case of what appears to be gross plagiarism of work by an indie artist.

This one has now made it to Bored Panda - see Zara Accused Of Stealing Designs From Independent Artists, And Here’s The Evidence so it'll be viral in no time at all (13k views in 22 hours!)
  • Do please share with any illustrators and designers you know who post their work online. 
  • They might also like to check out the Zara website for work which shares an amazing similarity to their own.
Below is the image featuring on the website page which highlights the various concerns. It invites designers to go to to submit comparison photos and links so independent artists can be supported.
Image created to demonstrate the nature of alleged plagiarism
Once is a mistake. This many times is inexcusable. Global fashion retailer Zara appears to have stolen dozens of artworks from over 20 independent illustrators, designers, and brands including Tuesday Bassen (whose particularly awful case has gone viral) and Adam J. Kurtz (that's me). Help us hold the company accountable to directly address this glaring intellectual property infringement and fairly compensate these

The big mistake Zara made was implying that they are so big and have so many visitors that they can ignore a few complaints
The thing they forget is that

  • there are an awful lot of indie artists who have an awful lot of indie artists friends 
  • the internet is awfully good for highlighting matters of concern to indie artists around plagiarism 
.....and I'm pleased to highlight their concerns!

Who are these designers?

  • Tuesday Bassen is an award-winning Illustrator and the force behind Shop Tuesday. She creates designs for pins and patches, clothing and home goods. She lives in Los Angeles. Clients include The New Yorker.
  • Adam J. Kurtz is a Brooklyn-based artist and author whose first book, 1 Page at a Time: A Daily Creative Companion has been translated into fifteen languages. He says his design and illustration is rooted in honesty, humor and a little darkness.

More examples of plagiarism highlighted on this blog

Long time readers of this blog will recall I like to highlight blatant examples of plagiarism. Past cases and posts include the following

Luc Tuymans - the famous Belgian painter

The prominent Belgian painter Luc Tuymans was found guilty of plagiarism by a Belgian Court in 2015.

Plagiarise at your peril - the Luc Tuymans case (Jan 25, 2015) examines:
  • the facts and reporting of the case
  • the copying of photographs by artists; and 
  • the use of 'parody' as an exception from the law on copyright in the European Union
  • the importance of country in relation to copyright
  • a key issue relating to freedom of expression and appropriation art
There are a number of examples of major artists thinking that the law on copyright does not apply to them. Tuymans is just one of them.

This post earlier in 2016 highlights Copyright infringement - recent lawsuits involving artists which includes
  • Litigant Mitchel Gray vs Jeff Koons
  • Litigant Donald Graham vs Richard Prince and the Gagosian Gallery
  • Litigant Ally Burguieres vs Taylor Swift
  • Litigant: The FBI (re. Kungfu Panda and Dreamworks) vs Jayme Gordon
  • PLUS Associations of lawyers specialising in intellectual property
This week I came across a different approach to copyright infringement on an artist's website. The message on the website didn't look to dissimilar to those you see on many websites with respect to who to contact if you want to reproduce the art. What was different was that the link went straight to a firm of lawyers in the USA who specialised in copyright and trademark infringement. Suddenly one knew that this particular artist meant business - in the literal sense.

The American Watercolour Society Controversy

One that should be read by all art societies and organisers of art competitions awarding prizes to hyper-realistic paintings!

The posts included:
I think it's a very great shame that Mark E Mehaffey AWS doesn't get to include AWS 'Gold Medal Winner' in his resume.

Is copyright infringement always clear cut? Lisa Congdon vs Cody Foster and various photographers

Are stories of copyright infringement as clear cut as they appear? This episode had two stages.

Plagiarism online - more posts

Plagiarism comes up on a regular basis on this blog. Here are some key posts I've written.
  • Plagiarism or 'passing off' - it's got to stop - this is a very long post which relates essentially to principles relating to plagiarism and derivatives. The post has been revised since first published for the reasons stated in the introduction to the revised post. The original post - and the revised version - were prompted by the daily painting movement and "Duane Derivatives". This post got a lot of visitors and an awful lot of comments. It includes definitions of both plagiarism and derivative art.It invites readers to have a discussion - with an educational intent - about what is and is not OK in relation to copying, plagiarism, imitation and derivative art.
  • Make your own art! - This followed on from the above. It focuses on why original art is best and why every artist has it in them to be a complete original. 
  • If you don't want your artwork stolen..... - Artists can learn a lot about how to handle copyright issues from photographers.
  • Plagiarism on Facebook - This is about people who claim other people's artwork as their own - and highlights a case study of an example on Facebook. This is not uncommon. It's an issue which every Moderator of a Facebook Group needs to be aware of - and MUST take prompt action when it is highlighted with proof.  This post focuses on:
    • Why do people copy other people's images?
    • How can you tell if somebody is copying?
    • What should you do if you see somebody copying?

More about Copyright for Artists

I recently had an article published in the June edition of The Artist magazine in the UK about How to protect your art online.

Extract from my Article about How to protect your art online

I don't profess to be an expert however I have been following cases and looking for expert information and advice online for the last decade or so.

My website Art Business Info. for Artists has a section all about Copyright for Artists which provides a reference of information available online about copyright, trademarks and brands for artists. Specifically:
Other blogs posts include

Copyright & Pinterest

Plus a major initiative on my part when Pinterest created the functionality for blatant copyright infringements

Monday, July 25, 2016

Top Tips for the Travelling Artist

It's summer and artists are travelling with their art media - after they've had a good long hard think about what to take and how to pack it. Then - very often - they have another think!

Facebook is awash at present with photos of the complete sketching kits - prior to packing - being taken by urban sketchers to Manchester for the 2016 International Symposium of Urban Sketchers

I thought I'd remind people of two posts I've published on this blog in 2011

Charvin Oil Paints photographed in Green and Stone on the Kings Road Chelsea.

I did mean to do two more posts about top tips about travelling with watercolours and coloured pencils - and must get round to finishing this short series five years later!

Do you have any top tips for travelling with art media?

Revisiting top posts

I was away last week and am planning on having a quiet week (drawing) this week so may well revisit more blog posts of merit from the past in the near future

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

UPDATE #2: Fabriano Paper - a meeting and conclusions

We have progress in matters related to Fabriano Paper! This will come as good news to all the botanical artists around the world who favour their watercolour paper as being the absolute best for their very precise and highly controlled botanical paintings in watercolour or coloured pencils.

This post summarises the key points from the meeting yesterday to discuss recent changes to Fabriano watercolour paper between a number of leading (and disappointed) botanical artists and representatives of Fabriano at the offices of the paper wholesaler and distributor RK Burt & Co. My role was joint organiser and recorder of what happened.

Overall the meeting was very positive and productive. While it didn't provide any immediate answers it has provided good quality information for making progress to resolve the issues relating to the recent changes that artists have identified and reported.

Blind testing watercolour paper at yesterday's meeting between artists and Fabriano at RK Burt
Note: Those who have been following matters related to the changes in specific Fabriano Watercolour Papers will have read my previous posts:

The meeting with Fabriano 

The purpose of the meeting yesterday was to try and understand better why so many artists have been experiencing problems with the hot press papers (Artistico and Classico) produced by Fabriano Artistico.

After pursuing the issue earlier in the year (see above), the Marketing Manager offered to meet up with artists who have been having problems.

Clifford Burt, Manager of RK Burt and I organised the meeting so that both artists and Fabriano could explore the different perspectives on papermaking and the issues encountered by artists. We would all like to thank RK Burt and Company for hosting the meeting at their offices at RK Burt at 57-61 Union St, London SE1 1SG

Those attending the meeting were:
  • Giuseppe Prezioso - Head of Marketing for Fabriano (School products, Art and Paper)
  • Chiara Mediolo - Marketing Director, Fabriano
  • Clifford Burt, Manager, R.K. Burt and Company (UK wholesale distributor for Fabriano)
  • Professional Botanical Artists:
  • Coloured Pencil Artists
I'd personally like to thank all the people who travelled a long distance and for very many hours to get to the meeting. The effort I think was very worthwhile.

The agenda for the day was as follows.

Introduction to papermaking

In the morning Clifford Burt provided an introduction to:
  • how watercolour paper is made and why/how problems can arise (I'll be doing a separate blog post about this) 
  • why 90% of problems are generally found to be self-inflicted by painters due to how they handle/soak etc.

As a result the artists attending had a much better understanding of:
  • cylinder mould paper production and 
  • why no two paper production runs will ever be the same 
  • plus how to avoid damaging paper  (see my past blog post How to avoid contamination of watercolour paper).
  • how to spot damage invisible to the naked eye.

The changes at Fabriano

Giuseppe Prezioso then explained the Fabriano perspective and
  • the place of the art papers within the total portfolio of the company 
  • the recent changes at Fabriano and the quality tests they run
The company has a very wide portfolio of products and clients in terms of production and merchandising. There are vast differences between the tonnage of art paper they produce and the tonnage of other types of paper. This makes for a more robust firm which isn't going to disappear if problems occur in terms of supplies or the marketplace!

The key issue that artists need to understand - in terms of how long it will take to address the problem - is that productivity and profitability is affected by how long a paper run is.  For art papers which only produce a small tonnage in relative terms a paper run might only be done once a year.

Key points:

  • Fabriano want to try and identify the specific factors which are making a difference to the paper and the smoothness and quality of the surface and causing the issues identified by artists. 
  • They also need to know which factors in terms of paper characteristics are most important to artists (see below)
  • There are three cylinder mould machines which can make the fine art watercolour paper and the money paper they produce. However the differences in tonnage produced for the different types of paper is immense. The cost of changing over from one to another are significant in terms of downtime and efficiency and means that the paper runs for art paper are basically done once every 12-18 months.
  • Consequently it may take up to 18 months or so to get new paper into the retailers - assuming that Fabriano can test and identify what factors have changed the surface and performance of the paper.
  • They are doing a major test at the end of July.  In effect they will now reverse engineer and work out how to reproduce the previous surface with a view to creating a new paper run. This test run will now be informed by:
    • the samples brought and shown to Fabriano with respect to the problems.
    • the blind testing samples (left with Fabriano to take away)

Other information about the paper:

  • the change made in the machines for the new contract for money paper and its requirements are very small and should NOT make a difference to the art papers produced ( more will be explained in the post about papermaking )
  • Artistico paper is made from cotton lintners.  These are fine, silky, very short fibres which cling to the seeds of the cotton plant after ginning. They are needed to help create a smooth paper with strength, durability and permanence. 
  • problems with supplies of cotton linters influence papermaking in a major way (eg the 2010 flooding in Pakistan and the drought in the southern states of the USA). Fabriano decided to limit the colours they produce on the basis of the supplies which are most consistent.
  • the paper in the pads is exactly the same as the paper in sheets (the pads are made up by R.K.Burt)

Samples review and blind testing

After lunch we started to look at issues to do with different types of paper.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2016 - Selected Artists

The judges for the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition (STWC) have selected the artwork and artists for the exhibition which will be held at the Mall Galleries between 19-24th September.

The Winner is announced in advance of the exhibition opening - in the Culture section of the Sunday Times magazine.
The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition aims to celebrate and reward excellence and originality in the medium of watercolour
Eligible media includes:
  • any water-based media
  • this includes acrylic, inks and gouache (note it does NOT state that watersoluble oil paint is acceptable!)
Two points are emphasised in the rules
Artists should note that whilst any water-based mediums are acceptable, this competition aims to celebrate and reward excellence and originality in the genre of watercolour painting.
The judges will therefore be looking for work that makes the most imaginative or otherwise impressive use of a water based medium in this respect.
The 2016 judging panel included:

Selected Artists

75 paintings were selected for the exhibition. Below are the names of the selected artists.

There are several artists who have had two works selected. These are Jacqueline Abel, Bob Aldous, Lucy Austin, Louise De La Hey, Kate Hunt, Chloe Le Tissier, Robert Offord and Jenny Ross.
  • Links in their names are to their websites. Facebook Pages are also highlighted where found.
  • I've provided a tiny bio where I have access to information - some of which comes from past posts on this blog (eg selected artist in another art competition). STWC indicates previous years selected for this competition.

  • Jacqueline Abel - previously selected for the Threadneedle Prize in 2012 and 2013
  • Bob Aldous - works in a wide variety of media
  • Roger Allen - based in Derbyshire and paints the Derbyshire landscape. Works in oil and watercolour using a traditional technique of overlaid washes in watercolour. His work can currently be seen at the Derbyshire Open Exhibition at the Buxton Art Gallery.
  • Lucy Austin - Lives and works in Bristol at Mivart Studios. Draws in watercolour and has previously exhibited such drawings at The Jerwood Drawing Prize (2007, 2008 & 2010) and RA Summer Exhibition
Black Braces (Study) by Raymond Bentley
  • Raymond Bentley - an award-winning watercolourist and oil painter from the North of England. Comes from Stoke on Trent and current lives in Saltburn-on-Sea in Cleveland. 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Georgia O'Keeffe at Tate Modern - a review of the exhibition reviews

The Georgia O'Keeffe exhibition - which includes the most expensive painting by a woman sold at auction - opened at Tate Modern last week.
Tate Modern presents the largest retrospective of modernist painter Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) ever to be shown outside of America. Tate
I'm a huge fan of her work but have not been to see it yet. So I thought I'd do a round-up of:
  • the reviews to see what the general conclusions are so far.  I'm actually amazed at the number of so-called serious art journals etc who have ignored this exhibition
  • all my previous blog posts about Georgia O'Keeffe - following an intensive study of her work - which are listed at the end of this post.
The exhibition is on until 30 October 2016 and is open daily 10.00 – 18.00 and until 22.00 on Friday and Saturday. For more information about the Tate or the exhibition For public information call +44 (0)20 7887 8888, visit, follow @tate #Tate2016

Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1 1932 by Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
(Oil paint on canvas 48 x 40 inches) 
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Arkansas, USA
Photography by Edward C. Robison III
© 2016 Georgia O'Keeffe Museum/DACS, London
This is said to be "the most expensive painting by a woman"
- it sold at Sotheby's for $44.4 million in 2014

Media response

I've included a quotation from each review which attempts to indicate the tenor of the review.  I've put the RECOMMENDED reads first.

Watch out for the tired old cliches about female anatomy used by some.
When people read erotic symbols in my paintings, they’re really talking about their own affairs,she said.

UK Media

The major retrospective of Georgia O’Keeffe’s work that opened this week at Tate Modern in London is a rare opportunity for British viewers to engage with this revered American artist.
This blockbuster retrospective seeks to show there is more to Georgia O’Keeffe than anodyne prints, signature aprons and sexual stereotypes – but her own gorgeous, awkward art compounds the cliches
after such a long wait for a British retrospective, this one is peculiarly disappointing, not least because it is padded out with numerous photographs and flaccid paintings.
In the art world, women are simply worth less. And not just financially. Throughout art history women have consistently been ignored. But modernism would be an entirely different beast without O’Keeffe.
  • Culture Whisper - Georgia O'Keeffe, Tate Modern - awards 4* and asks where are all the flowers and then  points out that they are but a small part of her total output.
Revelatory it certainly is for those who thought O’Keeffe was either brazenly or innocently preoccupied with painting sexually suggestive flowers: they make up less than 5% of O’Keeffe’s artistic output.

American media

O’Keeffe, for her part, found the emphasis on her gender overblown. As early as 1922, she was peeved. “They make me seem like some strange unearthly sort of creature floating in the air—breathing in clouds for nourishment—when the truth is that I like beef steak—and I like it rare.
  • El Paso Times - Georgia O'Keeffe gets big London show - I don't often have cause to quote this one! I liked the openening sentence - the remainder seems to be culled from the press release and previously published material.
Georgia O’Keeffe has come to London, like a bracing American desert wind rippling the River Thames.

More about Georgia O'Keeffe

Back in 2007 I spent a month doing research about the life and work and development of artwork by Georgia O'Keeffe. In part this came from having visited New Mexico and the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe ten years ago - in July 2006.

 Travels with a Sketchbook: 22nd July - Santa Fe and Georgia O'Keeffe is about my visit to the Georgia O'Keeffe museum in Santa Fe. I'd been wanting to go to the museum for a very long time - on the basis that you can't beat seeing art 'up close and personal' as an aid to understanding art - and was not disappointed!

The remainder are blog posts on Making A Mark - starting with the most recent

Friday, July 08, 2016

V&A wins Art Fund's £100,000 Museum of the Year Award 2016

The Art Fund Museum of the Year Award is one which many art museums across the UK yearn to win - not least because it brings with it a £100,000 prize and the accolade which can go on all their marketing to both fans and tourists.

This blog post is about the Award, who won it this year (the V&A) and my commentary on the achievements of the V&A and a major problem which needs to be resolved very fast! Plus at the end blog posts I've written in the past about the whole range of aspects of the V&A

There's a clear purpose behind the criteria used to judge which museum should win - and that primarily focuses on the ability of a museum to engage with its audience and inform and extend understanding of the exhibitions, artifacts and exhibitions.
The judges will present the 2016 Prize to the museum or gallery that has best achieved some or all of the following criteria:
  • Undertaken projects that will provide a lasting legacy or have a transformative effect on the museum.
  • Brought its collections to life for audiences – engaging, inspiring and extending public understanding.
  • Delivered an original audience development, learning or outreach programme.
  • Clearly won the support and enthusiasm of its visitors and users.

The 2016 Winner of the Art Fund Museum of Year Award

The winner for 2016 is the Victoria and Albert Museum ("the V&A") in South Kensington - which characterises itself as the world’s leading museum of art and design.

The exterior of the Victoria and Albert Museum on the Cromwell Road in South Kensington
The other finalists were: the Arnolfini (Bristol), Bethlem Museum of the Mind (London), Jupiter Artland (West Lothian), and York Art Gallery (Yorkshire).

The judges for Museum of the Year 2016 were: 
  • Gus Casely-Hayford, curator and art historian; 
  • Will Gompertz, BBC Arts editor; 
  • Ludmilla Jordanova, professor of History and Visual Culture, Durham University; 
  • Cornelia Parker, artist; 
  • Stephen Deuchar (chair of the panel), director, Art Fund.
I can't say I'm surprised that the V&A won. The way in which the museum has overhauled both its galleries, its collection and the raised its game in terms of attracting huge numbers to its exhibitions made it a natural candidate for this award.

In introducing the prize in the video below, Stephen Deuchar, the Art Fund director and chair of the judges says
"It's all about the power of people to animate collections and institutions"

The V&A sneaked it because it's a global treasure 
Will Gompertz - Museum of the Year 2016 Judge
Highlights of recent times at the V&A have included:
  • the enormous numbers visiting the V&A for the Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty exhibition (but note my comment below about how easy it is to access the exhibition through the new website
Installation view of 'Romantic Naturalism' gallery, Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty at the V&A

(c) Victoria and Albert Museum London
The Facade on the Exhibition Road side of the V&A - After the restoration and cleaning

The major failure of the V&A 

If there is one thing I'd criticise the V&A for it's the absolutely appalling implementation of their new website which leaves the public locked out of the massive content on the old website prior to its move to the new website. The only way content can be accessed is by knowing it exists and then searching for it on Google with quite a precise search query.

There are also 301 redirects for past pages meaning that carefully collected and curated links now throw up a "Content no longer available" message - which is just infuriating!

For example:
  • The term "Alexander McQueen" returns no response on the search query on the new website. 
  • The search term "Savage Beauty" also does not exist on the new website
Website Co-ordinators and those responsible for communicating with the public have really got to understand that VIRTUAL ARCHIVES and past documentation are as important as what is going on right now!

Whoever is responsible for this website also needs a massive shake-up!

The importance of the Virtual Museum

An Art Museum these days is a lot more than its structure and contents. Its virtual existence is at least as important in terms of education and promoting the delivery of improved knowledge and understanding.

I'd suggest that in future the Art Fund Museum of the Year judges look at how well a museum delivers online to its audience around the world as well as on the ground to those actually visiting the museum building.

More about the Art Museum of the Year Award

To read more about the Award see the following articles. I've missed out those which were more focused on the stunning frock worn by the Duchess of Cambridge!

Past blog posts about the V&A


Exhibitions & Policies





Thursday, July 07, 2016

Interview with Benjamin Sullivan (BP Portrait Award 2016 3rd Prize)

The major benefit of NOT winning the BP Portrait Award - but being a regular exhibitor - is that the exhibition enables a lot of people to see your work. That, in turn, means more opportunities for selling work and getting commissions for future portraits from people who see and like your work.

Ben, Ginnie and Edie Sullivan and the BP Portrait Award Third Prize Painting of Hugo

That was the major conclusion drawn from my VIDEO interview with Benjamin Sullivan who won 3rd Prize in the 2016 BP Portrait Award. He's a "BP regular" who has had his portrait selected on a number of occasions since 2002. In fact I think he may well lay claim to being the portrait painter who has been selected the most times for this exhibition.

Let's also not forget that in 2015 the BP Portrait Award Exhibition was seen by 329,556 visitors.

Where else can you get this number of people viewing your portrait painting?

Plus if you keep coming back - and become a BP regular - some artists become better known than the people who won!

Video Interview with Ben Sullivan

My Video Interview with the 2016 Third Prizewinner Ben Sullivan covers:
  • the benefits - in terms of sales and commissions - for a professional portrait painter of getting a portrait into the BP Portrait Award Exhibition 
  • being a professional portrait artist
  • painting people in their own home
  • his approach to painting and how he starts
  • the importance of drawing from observation
  • working from observation vs working from photos
  • the value of painting family and friends on a regular basis

This year I wrote a post Comparison of the RSPP Open and BP Portrait Award Competition in which I compared the similarities and differences between the open annual exhibition of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and the BP Portrait Award which is an art competition.

I think a number of portrait painters - around the world - might like to reflect on Ben's comments in the video and my observations in the abovementioned blog post.

More about Benjamin Sullivan RP NEAC

You can read a lot more about Ben in my shortlist blog post - £30,000 BP Portrait Award 2016 - The Shortlist. Key facts are:
  • previously selected 12 times for the BP Portrait Award Exhibition (2002 and 2006-2015)
  • won the Lynn Painter Stainers Prize in 2007
  • the youngest ever painter to be elected (at the time) to both 
    • the New English Art Club (2001) and
    • the Royal Society of Portrait Painters (2003)
  • BA (Hons) in Drawing and Painting from Edinburgh College of Art (graduated 2000)
  • born in Grimsby in 1977 and lives and works in Suffolk - but will travel for commissions.
  • website:
  • Facebook Page:
Check out the portrait with the model.
This is Hugo Williams (the subject of the portrait) and his wife

BP Portrait Award Winners and Shortlists

You can read more about the past winners and shortlists in my post Interview with Clara Drummond - Winner of BP Portrait Award 2016.

Below is a list of the videos of past prizewinners

Videos of BP Portrait Award prizewinners

I began to interview prizewinners in 2012 - starting with Aleah Chapin - whose video has now been seen by around 80,000 people

I try to interview as many prizewinners as possible the following morning after the Awards Ceremony. It's often very loud and noisy in the exhibition and I try to leave the interviews towards the end of the morning when the hubbub has died down.  Sometimes there is a problem with language and sometimes the artist has disappeared before I can interview them!

First Prize

Second Prize

Third Prize

More about the BP Portrait Award 2016

You can see the exhibition at:

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Interview with Clara Drummond - Winner of BP Portrait Award 2016

I've uploaded my video of my interview with Clara Drummond, the 2016 Winner of the BP Portrait Award to YouTube

Clara Drummond with the portrait which won the First Prize
in the BP Portrait Award 2016
Girl in a Liberty Dress (260 x 370 mm, oil on board)
You can view my video interview with Clara below - or you can click the YouTube icon bottom right and view it on HD and a larger scale within my YouTube Video Channel.

WARNING! As often happens with my interviews with the winners of the BP Portrait Award, there's a lot of hubbub in the background. This year it was compounded by the painting being hung in the middle of the exhibition rather than towards the end of the gallery - so even more noise! However you should be able to hear my questions and her responses without too much difficulty unless you have a hearing impairment.  However I would recommend listening to the interview when you don't have any background noise in your own environment.

By the way it's a great interview and very informative!

To give you a flavour of the interview here are some of the highlights of what she talks about:
  • why she decided not to go to art school
  • what she learned as an assistant to portrait painter Jonathan Yeo
  • the drawings and paintings of other artists which provide her with inspiration
  • her emphasis on drawing
  • why she paints her friends repeatedly
  • why you need to keep growing as a painter and try new techniques
  • why experimentation is important when working 
  • what was the one thing she did which changed her approach to her format and painting
  • how her approach has changed recently - and how she describes it
  • what it was like meeting Jenny Saville - and why she has been an inspiration
Below you have
  • more about how you can see this year's exhibition in London and on tour
  • more about Clara Drummond and other comments on her win
  • FOR THE SERIOUS FANS: more about BP Portrait Award Winners from previous years

More about the BP Portrait Award 2016

You can see the exhibition at:
  • National Portrait Gallery until 4th September after which it tours to:
  • Usher Gallery, Lincoln (12 September – 13 November 2016) and 
  • Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh (26 November 2016 - 26 March 2017.)

Plus you can see it online my video of the exhibition

These are my previous posts relating to the 2016 competition
This is how to sign up for information about the 2017 Award

More about Clara Drummond

This is Clara's website
This is Clara on Facebook -

Contact Clara to find out where she is teaching.

Read more about Clara in the press about her win

More about the Winners and the Shortlists

What follows is for those seriously interested in this competition!