Monday, November 27, 2017

Call for Entries - New English Art Club Annual Exhibition 2018

Entries are now being accepted for the 2018 Annual Exhibition of the New English Art Club. The exhibition is an OPEN exhibition - however I suggest those wanting to enter review my analysis and comments below prior to submitting an entry

You have three months get your entry ready because the deadline for entries is noon on Friday 23 February 2018.

Below you can find
  • my commentary on the nature of this open exhibition
  • a review of the metrics associated with the annual exhibition in June 2017 - including the number of works selected from the open entry, the number of non-member artists who got to exhibit and the average number of artworks hung by a non-members.
  • a summary of how to enter the next annual exhibition.
    Members' paintings in the Main Gallery of the Mall Galleries at the NEAC Annual Exhibition 2017

    The annual exhibition in 2018 will be held at the Mall Galleries (15 - 23 June 2018). It opens at 10am and is open every day (10am - 5pm ) until 5pm on 23 June 2018

    You can also follow my summary of the Calls for Entries for the various exhibitions of the national art societies in the UK on my blog PAGE UK Art Societies: Open Exhibitions.

    The New English Art Club

    This is how NEAC explains its purpose and remit as follows
    The New English Art Club is a group of around ninety professional painters whose work is based principally upon direct observation of nature and the human figure. We aim to foster excellence in all our activities and continue to assist and encourage the art of painting to develop even more expressive possibilities.

    Our Annual Exhibition is a showcase for our members and gives aspiring artists an opportunity to be seen alongside some of the best figurative artists painting today.
    In relation to its annual exhibition, it states
    The New English Art Club seeks work which demonstrates excellence in both concept and draughtsmanship.
    The NEAC website has also recently had a makeover since I last looked at it and is greatly improved.

    Exhibition Metrics re. Open Exhibition 2017

    If you're thinking of entering the 2018 exhibition, I suggest you take a look at the numbers I crunched for last year's exhibition and my comments below.

    I think NEAC needs to be a lot more explicit about
    • the purpose of the Open Entry and 
    • what the benefits are to those who seek to exhibit - in terms of the practical reality. 
    The organisation of the exhibition and the number of works being exhibited by non-members in recent times does not persuade me that the open entry is seriously seen as a route through to membership of NEAC.  Candidates for membership need to be seen to be exhibiting more than one work - as they do in some of the other FBA Societies. (see the Artist Membership Application Process).

    Just two people were elected to membership in 2017. Both are established professional artists who were already members of other FBA Societies. One is the Treasurer of another society.  It's also very clear that NEAC sees itself as a community of professional artists.

    Suggesting that the route to entry of NEAC is via another FBA Society and becoming an established and professional artist and NOT via this particular open submission.....  Which may well come as a surprise to some people who have submitted in the past.

    Personally I'm also of the opinion that hanging just 25% of the exhibition from the open entry is not a great way to encourage people to enter. It makes it look like the open entry is being used to subsidise an exhibition which is overwhelmingly (75%) about members' works.

    Also hanging all the members work in the main galleries and most of the open submission in the North Gallery is somewhat pointed. Is this one exhibition or two?

    Frankly, in my opinion, the aim of an open exhibition should be to fund the majority of the cost of an exhibition by selecting artwork of merit - by whoever - that generates a healthy number of sales - OR charging a premium to members whose work does not sell.

    After all, let us not forget that art societies started out as a way of creating scale economies when putting on group exhibitions that enabled artists to raise their profile and have careers as a professional artist.

    Exhibition Metrics 2017

    Here's my summary of the 2017 exhibition (from my review)
    This is perhaps the most uneven exhibition I've ever seen in terms of the hang. By which I mean biased in a scientific sense. I think the best way of describing it is:
    • essentially an exhibition of artwork by the members 
    • a very low key and small "open" exhibition - in terms of nature and format of work selected
    Here's my summary of the metrics - the performance indicators - for the exhibition.
    • 415 artworks were exhibited in the 2017 open exhibition - across all three galleries of the Mall Galleries. Paintings included oils, acrylic, watercolour and mixed media. Drawings included charcoal, pastel and graphite.
    • Of these 415 exhibited artworks:
      • 312 (75.2%) artworks were by 79  members and 
      • 101 (24.3%) artworks were by 84 non-members plus 2 watercolour paintings by HRH Prince of Wales
    • Of the 84 artists from the open entry, 
      • 10 were members of other national societies (most of which are based at the Mall Galleries). 
      • Leaving 74 artists with no affiliation to a national art society
    • The majority of the 84 non-member artists only had ONE WORK selected from the open entry for the exhibition, with a few having two works.  
    • Average number of works exhibited by non-member - 1.2 artworks.
    Virtually all of the artwork selected from the open submission can be seen in the North Galleries. Most of the work hung in these galleries is small to medium size paintings. Review: New English Art Club Annual Exhibition 2017
    • Most of the sales after four days of the exhibition had come from smaller works (see my review) - and not a lot appeared to be coming from members' works.
    [Note: By way of comparison, back in 2015 some 1,000 entries resulted in 94 paintings, drawings, prints and watercolours (i.e. 9.4%) were hung alongside the 293 works by members. 

    Disappointingly, the number of entries in 2016 and 2017 were NOT highlighted in the catalogues.]

    Many artists are concerned about the cost of entering art competitions. Digital entry has totally eliminated the cost of framing and transporting work to London for all those who are unsuccessful in the first screening of their artwork. 

    However, given that entry fee and framing costs escalate with the number of works entered, I'd suggest people think carefully about the number of works entered. 

    Given that it's unlikely that more than one artwork will be selected and hung, I recommend that you consider entering no more than two works.  

    It also seems unlikely a large work will be selected based on the 2017 exhibition - since most works by non-members were small or medium sized works.

    You also need to ensure you enter two works likely to be compatible with the artwork hung in an exhibition like this!  (That's where reviewing artwork in person or online comes in!).

    You can find out more about the 2017 exhibition as follows:

    Call for Entries

    This is an OPEN EXHIBITION. Both members of NEAC and other artists are invited to submit artwork for consideration.

    Sunday, November 26, 2017

    Closure of the Courtauld Gallery - more details

    I was very surprised to learn last week
    • the bad news - The Courtauld Gallery is due to close
    • the good news - the closure is only for two years while the gallery undergoes a multi-million pound renovation / transformation project.
    • the good news - the art is going on tour!
    Self Portrait with a Bandaged Ear (1889)
    by Vincent Van Gogh
    oil on canvas
    Samuel Courtauld bequest / Courtauld Gallery
    I wrote to the Gallery find out more and now want to share with you
    • what I was told by their PR people.  
    • THE FACTS as per the website
    • a VIDEO about the project and what will happen
    • Plus links to where you can find out - and see - more about what is going to happen.

    Here's what I was told
    The project was announced in May 2016 and it’s currently in the development phase, but please find below some information about the project and more information about the Courtauld’s plans will be available early next year.

    Courtauld Connects is a multi-million pound transformation project which will see The Courtauld improve accessibility to its home at Somerset House and improve the experience for its visitors, staff and students. The Gallery is scheduled to go dark for two years from autumn 2018 while redevelopment work is underway. The Institute will remain open and a thriving centre for the study of art history, conservation and curating.

    The project will allow The Courtauld to develop new approaches to the interpretation, presentation, exhibition, and care of collections. It will open up The Courtauld’s collections and expertise with the widest public within and beyond London through new learning facilities, strategic partnerships with institutions across the UK, the digitisation of photographic collections, and events that will make art historical research accessible such as RESFEST in March 2018.
    My sketch of Monet's painting of Antibes in the Courtauld Gallery

    Courtauld Transformation - The FACTS

    It is the biggest development programme since The Courtauld Institute of Art moved to Somerset House in 1989. Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, it will enable The Courtauld significantly to improve teaching and research facilities, enhance the Gallery and widen and extend our reach locally, nationally and internationally.
    So the facts are:

    Saturday, November 25, 2017

    Evening Standard Contemporary Art Prize

    I'm not quite sure how I managed to miss the introduction, calls for entries and various videos about the NEW London Evening Standard Contemporary Art Prize - which offered a £10,000 prize for artwork about London. 

    Until I started to investigate how it was promoted that is....

    27th October 2017 - The article announcing the award of the prize to Helen A Pritchard

    People introducing new art prizes generally write to me early on, especially if they offer £10,000 prizes as that's my basic threshold for taking art prizes seriously and writing about them.

    However I guess if you are the Evening Standard you reckon that you can survive without me! ;)

    However, speaking personally, I only read the Evening Standard periodically and despite having various ways of picking up news about new art prizes I totally missed anything about it.

    Plus my many readers also tend to tell me about things they've read about or seen and also tell me about them and ask when I will be writing about them. However nobody wrote to me about it.

    So below is a summary of what my understanding is of what happened for those who might be interested should they repeat the exercise - which is unclear as I can't find any one website which provides information.

    Number of Entries - just 200!

    Before I start, I'd like to make the very important point that 200 entries - which is what they say they got - is about 10% of what I would expect for a serious art prize in the UK. 

    Let's be very generous and call it 20% of the sort of size of entry art prizes with a serious first prize get.

    As a result I did lots of interrogations of Google to find references to the Call for Entries - and could find nothing other than the Evening Standard posts.

    I did find a reference to it on the Evening Standard Facebook Page for Reader Offers - but absolutely no comments on it. 

    Then I did a search on Facebook and found incredibly few references to it. (Art Competitions with serious prizes generally generates lots of activity on Facebook - lots of likes and lots of comments. This one did neither)

    So I can only conclude that the marketing machinery didn't know WHO to contact to get coverage in terms of artists reading about this great opportunity.  There are listings of people who get told about art competitions - I know I'm on it and I get told about lots - but draw a line in relation to what I will cover. I would have covered this one - if I'd ever been told about it!

    So whatever else we can say about this prize, it's not difficult to conclude that:
    • getting the message out about this prize FAILED
    • the art competition could have had very many more entries if it had organised itself and promoted it rather better than it did
    • The Evening Standard is not enough to promote an art prize and get a serious entry!
    Bottom line if I was Hiscox, who were sponsoring the prize, I'd be pretty disappointed.

    What happened when and where

    What we have are:
    • a webpage for the London Evening Standard Contemporary Art Prize - which isn't a page with information. 
      • It's just a Topic Page on the Evening Standard website with lots of links to other URLs which focus on the pictures rather than what they are all about. 
      • There are no words and 
      • no Editorial input of "want to find out more - read this". I'm now becoming less confused as to how come I missed it.....
    • 27 April 2017Evening Standard Contemporary Art Prize: Artists can win £10,000 for putting London on canvas (8 shares) - Note the number of shares! There are a few details about who can enter (open to UK residents aged 18 and over) and the prize - and then it says To find out more and enter the London Evening Standard Contemporary Art Prize, go to - which takes is back to my first link above - which is sadly missing all the normal information for entering a prize e.g. like the deadline for entries!  The only links which look remotely like they might lead to the information about how to enter lead back to the article above - which doesn't say a single word about "how to enter". Am I missing something? Have I found found out why there are so few entries?
    They will be given “London” as their brief and asked to submit a painting with the winning work, chosen from a shortlist, announced at an event at the National Gallery on October 26.
    If you’ll be putting the finishing touches to your work right until the final hour, make note that no entries will be considered after midnight this Sunday (September 24).
    Entries cannot be bigger than 594 x 841 mm, and if shortlisted, need to be sent in for judging by October 16.
    • 26 October 2017 - Evening Standard Contemporary Art Prize: The shortlisted artists in the frame for £10k prize - Video of the Arts Editor of the Evening Standard at the offices of Hiscox talking about the competition. We see images of various artworks. There is no reference to what the title is and who the artist is. Very disappointing. Obviously this competition is all about the Evening Standard and Hiscox
    • 27 October 2017 - there is an article announcing the winner - Evening Standard Contemporary Art Prize: Helen A Pritchard's abstract 'love letter to London' wins £10k prize (144 shares) - The South African-born artist's painting beat over 200 other works to the £10k prize - another video with the announcement of who won the prize and why.  The event seems to be the sort where lots of people who know little about art drink Prosecco and talk to one another and pointedly ignore the art.  Then finally.... as I scrolled down the article I found a listing of the artists who got shortlisted for the prize (but no unique URL for the slideshow - which is a poor show!)
    I couldn't find any reference to any exhibition - so no opportunities for sales which are often an important incentive to artists entering art competitions.

    The shortlisted artists

    So here is the list of those who got shortlisted - and as I usually do, the links in their names are to their websites if you want to see more of their work

    and finally......

    I'd be very interested to hear from

    • those running art schools or teaching art or art students in London re. whether you heard about this prize and/or encouraged people to enter.
    • artists who did find out more about it - and where you found the information and what did it say.

    Thursday, November 23, 2017

    Thanksgiving DinDons

    Best wishes to all my American Readers who are celebrating Thanksgiving.

    Les Dindons
    a.k.a. The Turkeys at Montgeron
    (1877) by Claude Monet

    oil on canvas, 174 x 172cm
    Musee d'Orsay

    This is my photo, taken nearly a decade ago at the Musee d'Orsay, of a 140 year old painting of turkeys. Plus the accompanying label identifying its title as "Les Dindons" by Claude Monet

    They have a curious story.

    The turkeys - the Dindons - were painted by Monet in 1877 in the grounds of the Chateau of Rottenburg at Montgeron (just south of Paris) which was the home of Ernest Hoschedé, a wealthy department store magnate who was also an art collector and Monet's patron.

    This painting is unique insofar as:
    • this is the only painting I know in which Claude Monet painted birds. 
    • It was planned and painted as part of series of four decorative panels commissioned for the Chateau at Montgeron

    As it happens the same year that this painting was painted, Hoschedé went bankrupt and his wife Alice and their children moved in with the Monets at Vertheuil while Hoschedé continued to try and work in Paris and subsequently moved to Belgium.

    Monet's wife Camille had become ill with tuberculosis the previous year (1876). Then she gave birth to their second son in March 1878 - so having a second woman around may well have been a godsend.

    Camille subsequently died (of cancer) on 5 September 1879 at the age of thirty-two - and Alice Hoschedé then helped Monet to raise his two sons, Jean and Michel.

    Monet finally married Alice Hoschedé in 1892 after the death of her first husband.

    Alice died in 1911 and Monet in 1926.

    What happened to the painting?

    The painting was exhibited at the Third Impressionist Exhibition 140 years ago in 1877 - and seems to have been sold
    The third exhibition is considered “the most balanced and coherent” of the eight exhibitions held over a dozen years. Caillebotte contrived, solicited and arranged for what he wanted to see as a “democratic” exhibition of 230 works that represented 18 artists and attracted around fifteen thousand visitors in its thirty-day run. Gustave Caillebotte’s Dinner Invitation Leads to the Exquisite Third Impressionist Exhibition of 1877

    Timeline of Ownership 

    It's clear the painting was sold following the bankruptcy and the timeline of ownership is interesting.
    • from 1878, collection G. de Nittis, Paris
    • from 1884, in the Theodore Duret collection, Paris
    • 1894, sale of the Théodore Duret collection, paintings and pastels, Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, March 19, 1894, n ° 24
    • from 1894, in the Théodore Duret collection 
    • bought on sale on March 19, 1894
    • from 1903 to 1906, in the collection François Depeaux, Rouen1906, sale of the Depeaux collection, Paris, Georges Petit Gallery, May 31 and June 1, 1906, No. 27
    • from 1906 to 1944, in the collection of the princess Edmond de Polignac, born Miss Winnaretta Singer, then became princess of Scey-Montbéliard (acquired on the sale of Depeaux collection of May 31 and June 1)
    • 1947, accepted by the State as legacy of Princess Edmond de Polignac to the National Museums for the Louvre Museum (committee of 27/06/1945, council of 03/07/1945, decree of 19/01/1947)
    • from 1944 to 1947, Louvre Museum, Paris
    • 1947, attributed to the Louvre Museum, Paris
    • from 1947 to 1986, Louvre Museum, Jeu de Paume Gallery, Paris
    • 1986, assigned to the Musée d'Orsay, Paris


    After its exhibition in 1877 it didn't get out much - until 1980 - after which it has been exhibited all over the world!
    • Third impressionist exhibition, Paris, France, 1877
    • Claude Monet, A. Rodin, Paris, France, 1889
    • World and International Exhibition, Brussels, Belgium, 1910
    • Monet, Paris, France, 1928
    • Claude Monet: retrospective exhibition, Paris, France, 1931
    • Exhibition of masters of English 19th century painting, London, United Kingdom, 1936National Museums: New Acquisitions 1939-1945, Paris, France, 1945
    • French painting in the second half of the nineteenth and early twentieth century, Nice, France, 1955Tribute to Claude Monet, Paris, France, 1980
    • Monet, Tokyo, Japan, 1982Monet, Kyoto, Japan, 1982
    • The new painting impressionism 1874-1886, San Francisco, USA, 1986
    • The New Painting - Impressionism 1874-1886, Washington, United States, 1986
    • Claude Monet - Auguste Rodin, centenary of the 1889 exhibition, Paris, France, 1989
    • Monet: A Retrospective, Tokyo, Japan, 1994
    • Monet: A Retrospective, Nagoya, Japan, 1994
    • Monet: A Retrospective, Hiroshima, Japan, 1994Claude Monet: 1840-1926, Chicago, United States, 1995
    • Impresionismo: A Nuevo Renacimiento, Madrid, Spain, 2010
    • Birth of Impressionism. Masterpieces from the Orsay Museum, San Francisco, USA, 2010
    • Claude Monet 1840-1926, Paris, France, 2010

    Wednesday, November 22, 2017

    Call for Entries - Royal Society of British Artists 301st Exhibition

    This is a reminder that you have until 8th December 2017 to submit an entry to the 2018 Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of British Artists (RBA)

    Paintings exhibited by members in the Main Gallery
    The 301st exhibition in 2018 will be held in March 2018 at the Mall Galleries - across all three galleries due to its size.
    • It opens on Wednesday 21 March 2018 and closes at 2pm on Saturday 31 March 2018. 
    • It will open to the public every day from 10am - 5pm 
    • The Private View will be on Tuesday 20 March 2018, 11am – 8pm.
    The RBA is a society where membership is often seen as a complement to membership of other national art societies. Indeed this was its original intention.
    A group of painters met at Lincoln’s Inn Fields on May 21st 1823, to form the ‘Society of British Artists’, whose manifesto stated, ‘This organisation was not formed to rival existing societies but that every Member was to be at liberty to assist and support any other society.’
    Below you can find
    • a review of the metrics associated with the 300th exhibition in 2017
    • a summary of how to enter the next annual exhibition.
    You can also follow my summary of the Calls for Entries for the various exhibitions of the national art societies in the UK on my blog PAGE UK Art Societies: Open Exhibitions.

    Paintings and prints in the North Gallery

    Exhibition Metrics for 2017

    Below you can find information about the 2017 exhibition which is worth looking at if you are considering entering the 2018 exhibition
    • This is a LARGE exhibition. 510 artworks were exhibited in 2017 in the open exhibition across the three galleries (i.e. excluding the work by past Presidents and members, NADFAS RBA Scholars and the National Students At Exhibition).
    • Of these 510 artworks 
      • 383 artworks (75%) by 86 members and 
      • 127 artworks (25%) were by 100 non-members
      • of the open artists,16 were members of other national societies (most of which are based at the Mall Galleries). Which leaves 84 which have no affiliation. 
    You can find out more about the 2017 exhibition as follows:
    For the 2018 exhibition I'd personally like to see:
    • more scrutiny of the originality (as in 'Has it been exhibited before?') and quality of work by members 
    • a bigger percentage of artwork coming from the open entry (i.e. nearer one third would be a good first step) 
    After all the open entry is the future lifeblood of the RBA and the society needs to attract both good artwork and good artists who will be active supporters of the work of the RBA in future.

    PLUS I think artists need reminding that having their artwork shown at the annual exhibition is the route to membership of the RBA
    Before you may apply to become a Candidate it is essential that you have had several pieces of work accepted and shown at 3-4 of our annual exhibitions so members are aware of the quality of your work.RBA website - Election to Membership of The Royal Society of British Artists

    Call for Entries

    In summary, this is an OPEN EXHIBITION. Both members of the RBA and other artists are invited to submit artwork for consideration.
    • There is no constraint on type of artwork or medium - which creates the potential for this exhibition to be very interesting (However, typically this is an exhibition which tends to display paintings, drawings, sculpture and prints
    • All entries are via digital submission 
    • The deadline for entries is 12 noon on Friday 8th December 2017 
    • The entry fee is £15 per work payable at the time of submitting (£10 per work for artists aged 35 or under). 
    Details of how artists can apply via the open entry process are set out below.
    RBA in 2017 - Paintings and prints in the North Gallery
    Founded in 1823, the RBA seeks submissions of work displaying the highest standards of skill, expression and concept of draughtsmanship. Artists are invited to submit works for exhibition alongside members of the Royal Society of British Artists at their Annual Exhibition 2018.

    Who can Submit?

    Any artist - over the age of 18 - living anywhere in the world can submit artwork to this exhibition.

    Tuesday, November 21, 2017

    Call for Entries - Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours 206th Exhibition 2018

    The Call for Entries opened last month for the 206th Exhibition of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours (RI) at the Mall Galleries in April 2018.  The deadline for entries is 5 January 2018.
    The RI seeks the best in contemporary watercolour and watermedia painting
    Always an incredibly popular exhibition which appeals to all ages - this was the Private View in 2017

    The RI was founded in 1831 to exhibit the best in watercolour painting and to show non-members’ works alongside that of members, a policy still followed today.

    Exhibition Metrics for 2017

    This is a summary of the exhibition metrics for the annual exhibition in 2017
    • The open entry generated 1,090 entries from 489 artists (c.2.2 paintings per artist). 
    • 389 paintings by both members and other artists were hung on the walls of all three galleries. 
    • 142 of the works (36%) were by 98 non-member artists (1.45 paintings each) were selected and hung in the exhibition.
    • Members: averaged 2.87 works hung
    • 'Open' artists: averaged 1.45 works hung each
    You can review my past blog posts about this annual exhibition (2007-2017) 
    at the end of this post.

    Call for Entries

    In summary, both members of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours and other artists are invited to submit painting for consideration.  
    • Anybody can enter artwork created using in traditional watercolours or water-soluble media
    • All entries are via digital submission
    • The deadline for entries is Noon on the 5 January 2018.
    • The entry fee is £15 per work payable at the time of submitting (£10 per work for artists aged 35 or under).

    Details of how artists can apply via the open entry process are set out below.

    Information about the Annual Exhibition 2018

    The 206th Exhibition will be held at the Mall Galleries between Friday 6 April and Saturday 21 April, 1pm (10am - 5pm every day) - so just over two weeks.

    You can find
    Another view of the 2017 Annual Exhibition on the Preview Day

    Who can Submit

    Any artist - over the age of 18 - living anywhere in the world can submit work in water-soluble media to this exhibition.

    What you can submit 

    • Number: You can submit a maximum of six works - of which a maximum of four works selected.  Typically it's candidates for membership who submit a large number of paintings.
    • Media: Artwork in watercolour or water-soluble mediums, including watercolour, acrylic, ink or gouache (excluding water-soluble oils) are eligible for exhibition.
    • Size: Works must not be larger than 2.4m high and 1.5m wide.
    • Price: The minimum price is £450

    Personally I think it's a mistake to pitch the minimum price at £450 since there are a lot of sales below this figure in other exhibitions. I'd limit how many low priced paintings can be submitted and pitch the minimum price at (say) £250 or £300.  I hope the rationale for this constraint on submission has been based in a rigorous analysis of past sales.....

    The Candidates Wall at the RI Exhibition in 2017 - note each has four works hung

    How to Submit

    Monday, November 20, 2017

    ING Discerning Eye Exhibition 2017 - award winners and review

    The ING Discerning Eye Exhibition is a show of six curated exhibitions of small works independently selected by six prominent figures from the art world: two artists, two collectors and two critics.

    View of one of the six individual exhibitions at the Mall Galleries
    This is a review of the 2017 Exhibition which opened last week and continues until Sunday 26 November (10am and 5pm daily) at the Mall Galleries in London. It's taken a little longer than I had planned - I always forget how long this particular show takes to review properly - because there are lots of prizes and six completely different exhibitions!

    If you're unable to get to see the show, you can
    • view the online artwork catalogue and 
    • also read my past reviews and view the sort of artwork which has been selected in previous years - with the different sets of curators they have each year - see the archive of my posts dating back to 2008 at the end of this post.

    Some exhibition statistics provided by the organisers

    This year there are 465 works by 237 artists on show
    • 75% of the artists and 55% of the works have come from the open submission. Typically if you see groups of work by the same artist in this exhibition it's a very good indication they have been "invited" to exhibit as opposed to "selected" from the open entry.
    • In terms of types of artwork selected for the exhibition:
      • Painting and drawing make up over 60% of the works, 
      • mixed media and sculpture about 15%, and 
      • printmaking about 8%.
    This post covers the award winners and then reviews each of the six mini exhibitions in turn - with comments about different aspects of the show as a whole cropping up as and when!

    2017 Award Winners 

    This year there has been some very sloppy labelling of artwork in the exhibition and on the website. It's such a privilege to get selected and then such a disappointment when winning a prize if the right prize is not identified either in the gallery and/or on the website. The numbers are there for a reason - to get it right.

    This is the list of prizewinnersThose that have numbers with an asterisk next to them were selected from the open submission.

    11 of the 16 prizes went to artists selected from the open entry.  This breaks down as:
    • 6 of the 8 purchase prizes (75%) went to open entrants
    • 2 of the 2 other sponsor prizes (100%) went to artists selected from the open entry
    • 4 of the 7 regional prizes (57%) went to open entrants
    Asterion by Jill Desborough
    £1,200 SOLD
    For those who have thought of submitting but not done so before, or maybe been dispirited by not getting selected, here's a word from Jill Desborough, who was one of the successful artists submitting via the open entry. This year she had two works selected by two different judges, won one of the top Purchase Prizes and also sold the other work that was selected
    First, many thanks to the Discerning Eye for another lovely show and to Elmo Hood and Simon Tait for picking the pieces. There was such a good vibe there on PV night! Getting the prize was wonderfully encouraging. You have to harden yourself to a fair number of (kindly worded) rejections from open shows every year so it means an awful lot to get accepted and then the prize was an extra affirmation to keep on submitting!

    The Purchase Prizes

    These are prizes where the prize funds the purchase of the work. It's only just occurred to me that it could make a lot of sense to price your work to match the value of one of the Purchase Prizes! (Duh!)

    The ING Purchase Prize £5,000

    This year this was awarded to a painting by Rick Garland, one of the artists selected by Miranda Richardson.

    Thursday, November 16, 2017

    Breach of rules - Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2017

    This is about a competition where the organisers and Jury allowed an entry which breached the rules to remain in the competition and win two prizes.

    One of the things I do when writing about art competitions is I aim to make the process more accessible for those wanting to enter and further their careers and/or achievements.

    To that end I do three things:
    • I aim to unpick and make the call for entries a bit more accessible for people entering for the first time
    • I try to show those thinking about entering what the standard of work is in the exhibition - and the competition they're up against.
    I've had much praise over the years from people around the world for making that effort - which is NOT why I do it - but it's always nice to know that my efforts are appreciated.

    The third thing I do is the subject of this blog post.

    Basically, I speak up for those who may feel they maybe can't when things happen which really shouldn't happen in terms of the conduct of the competition.

    I don't like doing this - but I do think it's necessary.

    This post is about how to undermine confidence in competitions 
    • BY allowing an entry which breaches the rules to remain in the competition 
    • AND win not one but two prizes!

    One of Them Is a Human #1 (Erica: Erato Ishiguro Symbiotic Human-Robot Interaction Project) by Maija Tammi

    Maija Tammi's project, One of Them Is a Human #1, is a series of photographs that places androids alongside one human, asking what it means to be alive.

    A photo of an android was submitted as an entry into the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2017

    The portrait is not of a human, but the National Portrait Gallery decided to keep it in the competition anyway. In a statement they say (my bold):
    The Gallery has decided not to disqualify this portrait though accepts it is in breach of the rules. The rules are reviewed every year and this issue will be taken into consideration for next year. This portrait was part of 'One of Them Is a Human #1', a broader series which presents androids alongside one human. It was felt that the subject of this portrait, while not human, is a representation of a human figure and makes a powerful statement as a work of art in its questioning of what it is to be alive or human and asks challenging questions about portraiture. The ambiguity of this portrait makes it particularly compelling.

    We review the competition rules each year and as part of this will discuss whether they need to be changed in light of the selection of 'One of Them Is a Human #1' for this year’s exhibition. The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize is dedicated to showcasing the best in contemporary portraiture. There are occasions when particularly compelling portraits raise interesting questions about the genre of portraiture, and these may be included at the judges’ discretion
    The Judges also shortlisted the photograph which then went on to win
    • the third prize of £2,000
    • the John Kobal New Work Award and a £5,000 prize for a photographer under 35.
    Maija Tammi with her awards
    So a total of £7,000 (presumably in part funded by competition entry fees) was awarded for an entry which breached the rules and was ineligible for entry.

    I'll now go on to explain why, in my opinion, this should not have happened.

    Leonardo da Vinci sets new record for the most expensive painting ever sold at auction

    The auction sale of Leonardo da Vinci's Salvator Mundi at Christies New York yesterday is unusual for a number of reasons - the nature of the sale, the price it went for and the history of the painting

    This post is for those who enjoy their art history and includes reference links to other more in-depth articles about the painting.

    Salvator Mundi (c.1500) by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) 
    25⅞ x 18 in (65.7 x 45.7 cm).
    Sold on 15 November 2017 at Christie’s in New York
    Here's my summary - each section is followed by referenced to some of the articles which comment in more depth on the painting and the auction

    The Auction Sale

    • The final hammer price shattered the world record for a sale of an artwork at auction. The painting sold for $400 million (at a cost of $450,312,500 to the buyer after you include the auction house premium). That equates to a cost to the buyer of £342,182,751.
    • It exceeded the previous highest valued painting at auction by more than $200 million
    • It was very unusually sold at an evening auction of Post-War and Contemporary Art - because it's at evening sales where wealthy art collectors buy their art
    “By putting it in a contemporary sale, they shine a big light on the painting.”
    • Almost 30,000 people viewed the painting as it was displayed to the public in The painting was show to the public in Hong Kong, London, San Francisco and New York. It's the very first time the painting has been shown to the public in Asia or the Americas.
    • It was billed as "The Last Da Vinci", the "Male Mona Lisa", a "once in a lifetime sale" and the “Holy Grail” for elite collectors
    • The auction house was so confident that it would sell for a high price that it had guaranteed a price of $100 million
    • The bidding lasted 19 minutes with four bidders on the telephone and one in the room. The last bid jumped $30 million to close out the auction!
    • The comments on the Facebook Live Stream of the sale make for interesting and somewhat predictable reading
    • Nobody knows who the successful bidder was. It's likely to remain in private hands.

    They made a film of people viewing the painting prior to the sale.


    The history of the painting

    Wednesday, November 15, 2017

    César Dezfuli wins £15,000 Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2017

    Winner of the £15,000 Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2017
    César Dezfuli being interviewed about his portrait of 16 year old Amadou Sumaila
    It's extremely gratifying that the two photographs of refugees won the first and second prize in the Taylor Wessing Photographic Competition 2017 over the photograph of the android which to my mind was technically in breach of the rules of the competition and should have been eliminated.

    I'm very much NOT a fan of competitions which change the rules after they have taken the money from those people who submit entries. It's just not fair or decent - and some might argue it's not legal either.

    I'm actually going to split this post in two and deal with:
    • the first two prizes and the exhibition in this post
    • the entry which won third prize and the reason why, in my opinion, this was a clear breach of the rules - and what needs to happen to prevent this happening again in a post tomorrow. 
    This aside.....

    The competition had 5,717 submissions from 2,423 photographers living in 66 countries.  Those on the walls of the exhibition are as international as those submitting their photos for consideration by the jury.

    The jury considering the entries has nothing other than the title to go on. All entries are anonymous as both the name of the photographer and the person who is portrayed. 

    This year for the first time those entering work were allowed to submit digital entries for the first sift which will have much reduced expenses in relation to postage and packing for those living overseas. It also means that the jury can spend longer on those that make it through to the second sift.

    The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2017 - First Prize

    Amadou Sumalia by César Dezfuli
    From the series Passengers
    Inkjet print, August 2016

    The £15,000 prize went to César Dezfuli for his photograph of 16 year old Amadou Sumalia from Mali. He was later transferred to a reception centre in Italy.

    It comes from his series of photos called "Passengers". This documented in 118 photographs (click the link to see other photographs in the series) about the migrants on a boat who came from Mali, Gambia, Guinea, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone. Most will have been economic migrants fleeing poverty.

    It was taken very shortly after Amadou had been rescued from the Mediterranean, 20 miles off the Libyan coast along with 100+ other men. When compared with the rest of the photographs taken it's clear why this one was selected for this competition.

    César Dezfuli

    • Age: born in Madrid on 10 January 1991
    • Nationality: Spanish-Persian origins
    • Occupation: freelance journalist and documentary photographer - focuses on issues of migration, identity and human rights
    • Current home: Madrid
    • Education: graduated in journalism and audio-visual communication from the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Madrid, Spain followed by a postgraduate qualification in photojournalism. 
    • Previous appearances in this award: None
    • Website:
    His work documenting human rights issues has been published in numerous magazines and has been seen in group exhibitions in 2017 including First Prize in the Head On Photo Festival 2017 Portrait Category, and awards at the International Photographer of the Year Awards and the Moscow Foto Awards.

    César told me that he'd been working on a freelance basis, following a project to rescue people who were at risk in the Mediterranean as they try to reach Europe.
    I think Amadou’s portrait stands out because of the emotions it transmits. He had just been rescued by a European vessel, apparently fulfilling his dream. However, his look and his attitude show fear, mistrust and uncertainty, as well as determination and strength.’

    Judges Comments: 

    Against the balance and precision of Dezfuli’s composition, the directness of Sumaila’s gaze is striking and unsettling. The portrait powerfully conveys his loss, solitude and determination.
    My comments: It's much smaller than I imagined but amazingly arresting.

    Second Prize

    Winner of the £3,000 Second Prize 
    Abbie Traylor with her award and her photograph Fleeing Mosul
    From the series Women in war: Life after ISIS
    Colour coupler print, November 2016
    Abbie Trayler-Smith won the £3,000 Second Prize.  Abbie is a Documentary and Portrait Photographer who was working on an assignment for Oxfam when she took the photograph. She was at the Hasan Sham camp for internally displaced people in northern Iraq when a convoy of buses had just arrived, bringing people to safety from the intense fighting in Mosul.
    ‘I remember seeing the shock and bewilderment in the woman’s face as she looked out at the camp from the window. It made me shudder to imagine what living under ISIS must have been like.’
    Abbie told me that the woman is now in Baghdad with her husband.  Her family have returned to Mosul but her sister had both her legs blown off when their home was bombed in Mosul.
    • Age: born 20 May 1977
    • Nationality: born and raised in South Wales
    • Education: - 
    • Occupation: documentary and portrait photographer. Her work covers women’s rights, social development and the aftermath of conflict for national newspapers, charities and NGOs. She spent eight years as a photographer with The Daily Telegraph, covering world events such as the Darfur conflict, the Iraq war and the Asian tsunami, before deciding to go freelance in 2007. Her work has been seen in numerous publications and in group exhibitions and has also won awards
    • Current home: based in London
    • Clients: wide variety of clients including Time, The Sunday Times, The Independent Review, Marie-Claire, Tatler, Monocle, Vice, Oxfam, Save The Children, IRC, UNICEF, Sony and BBC worldwide.
    • Previous appearances in this award: The Big O, won 4th prize in The National Portrait Gallery’s 2010 Taylor Wessing Prize.
    • Website:

    Abbie Trayler-Smith (b.1977) studied law at King’s College London. In her photographic career

    Judges’ comments: 

    The colour and texture of the portrait has a painterly quality, created by the mud-streaked glass through which the young woman is framed. Her haunting expression quietly suggests the unimaginable horrors of life under occupation.
    My comments: I really liked this photo and hoped it would do well. The drips on the window of the bus seem to act as a metaphor for the situation at some many different levels.  Also while she is undoubtedly traumatised by her situation, there seemed to me to be a certain element of curiosity about what lay out the window which comes from being moved from where you have lived all your life.  Is it going to be any better?


    One of the interesting things about the exhibition is how it has changed since both the Director of the NPG and the Curator of Photography have changed (following their respective retirements).

    One of the first notes I made was "no twins and no gingers". I think I'd begun to assume these were perennial features of photographic competitions - but obviously not.

    There's a very powerful wall about the America of 2016/17 which was excellent which I am now euphemistically referring to as the "portrait of America". The two photos either end of the left hand wall are of the "wall" between Mexico and the USA. Inbetween are photographs of the American election.  On the right are two photographs of individuals with iconic emblems of the 'real American'.

    Portrait of America
    Alan Mozes followed the campaign trail for two months at the end for Vanity Fair and his portraits of both Clinton and Obama made the cut.

    Alan Mozes with his portraits of Clinton and Obama

    Alice Schoolcraft graduated in 2016 with a Bachelor of Arts in Photographic Arts with First Class Honours at the University of Westminster in London. She is half Swedish and half American and went to stay with her (never met before) American family and found that their values and activities were very different from those she has been brought up with. She photographed some of the curious things they got up to and called the series The Other Side.
    Curiosity about people’s personal lives is a driving force in my work and by employing detailed study I want to provide the viewer with the feeling that they know the people in my photographs personally without ever having met them.
    Halo by Alice Schoolcraftinkjet print
    The dog is wearing a necklace and is standing behind a chair which has a dress on it
    Somebody is behind the dog and has put their hands through the arms of the dress
    There are also very few celebrities this year - of the bling variety. Instead we have artists as subjects - Jack Vettriano (who was at the preview this morning), Maggi Hambling and AA Gill who has subsequently died.  Plus one of David Cameron looking fairly harassed a few days before the Referendum result - and his resignation.

    Jack Vettriano (on the right) in front of the photo portrait of him
    by Ian Mcilgorm (on the left)
    David Cameron adjusting his tie prior to his formal portrait photo by Charles Bibby
    Young people and what they get up seemed to be a recurrent theme of this year's exhibition. The exhibition also felt rather more international than it has hitherto.

    Young people around the world
    More young people from around the world

    Four boys who feature in one of the portrait photos (top left)
    Minecrafting by Hania Farrell - which is actually two portraits in one

    Judging Panel

    This year’s judging panel was
    • Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Chair (Director, National Portrait Gallery, London); 
    • David Campany (Writer, Curator and Artist); 
    • Tim Eyles, Managing Partner, Taylor Wessing LLP; 
    • Sabina Jaskot-Gill (Associate Curator, Photographs, National Portrait Gallery, London); 
    • Fiona Shields (Head of Photography, The Guardian) and 
    • Gillian Wearing (Artist.)

    More about the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize

    The posts below contain images of past prizewinning portraits.