Wednesday, November 21, 2018

One of selectors wins £5,000 ING Discerning Eye Prize!

There's no faster way to undermine an art competition than to "not play by the rules".
(Regular readers will remember some examples "calling out" I've done on this matter in the past)

There's one absolutely universal rule about integrity that applies to ANY competition. 
The rule essentially is that NOBODY can enter and/or win a prize IF they are:
  • involved with the competition in any way, 
  • and/or employed by any of the relevant companies associated with the competition 
  • and/or are family members of somebody who is.
The ING Discerning Eye Exhibition is selected each year by 2 Collectors, 2 Critics and 2 Artists. Discerning Eye Art Opps
Which is why I was totally flabbergasted to find out today that one of the SELECTORS of the 2018 ING Discerning Eye Prize Exhibition has won the TOP prize of £5,000!

How did that happen?

  • What does this absolutely gigantic faux pas in terms of "things that shouldn't happen in an art competitiondo to the credibility of this prize in the future?
  • Why are artist selectors being invited to exhibit work in the exhibition? (This exhibition is about their curation NOT THEIR ARTWORK!)
  • Why is the work of artist selectors even being considered for a prize?
  • Did it not occur to people, that relevant people (eg those submitting entries) might think this was a bad idea?
  • Why did the sponsors think nobody would notice?
  • Why did people supporting the running of this art competition not suggest that maybe this was a mistake?
  • If it was the right thing to do why is there no announcement or press release?
I knew something very odd was going on because I had received no notification of or press release about the person who won the prize - as usually happens one way or another (and indeed there is no press release so far as I can make out!). Presumably at some point it dawned on people that maybe they'd not made the wisest choice in the history of the competition

There again I thought it very odd that there's been no marketing for the exhibition online on Facebook. (While the packed PV got OTT coverage on Instagram by those attending - although I should point out that the bulk of those there are the artists and their partners)

Just as I thought it extremely odd that the exhibition at the Mall Galleries were exceptionally quiet today with hardly any visitors the whole time I was there - and I gather it's been like this since the Private View.

View of exhibition curated by Frances Hedges containing the top prizewinner
(REPLACES the earlier view posted which I saw yesterday)
So what exactly is going on with the ING Discerning Eye?
Who is advising them on reputational matters and marketing? They're not doing a very good job!

THIS POST is about the prizes.

I'll be writing about the exhibition(s) later in the week - in which I'll also raise a few other matters relating to what's gone wrong this year...

Bridget McCrum wins £5,000 Purchase Prize
- despite being a selector for the competition...

ING Purchase Prize - £5,000
Zenobia - Homage To Palmyra” 
by Bridget McCrumb (sic)
Bronze | 13x12x7 ins
Nothing wrong with that. Bridget McCrum is an excellent and well-regarded sculptor. The sort people commission all the time.

However she is also ONE OF THE SIX SELECTORS for this art competition / exhibition!

Did a spelling mistake (see the spelling of the name in the prize listing) mean a major mistake was made in selection?  However the name is spelt correctly in the catalogue so clearly 'somebody' knew this was one of the selectors.

If you want an artwork from a well-known artist what's to stop you from commissioning her direct?

Rather than
  • asking her to curate a mini exhibition of work selected for an art competition 
  • then giving her a £5,000 prize for an artwork which is part of the mini exhibition of another curator.
That's seriously not on!

Such a decision means this award "looks" exactly like the sort of "mutual back-scratching" that art competitions like this are so very often accused of.

I would suggest that if the sponsors want to do the decent thing and NOT bring their art competition into disrepute, that they go back and choose another artwork. Preferably by an artist who is still making their way and very definitely NOT by a well-established and reputable artist who has been asked to curate as one of two Artist Curators - as a member of the team of the six curators of this exhibition.

Otherwise I predict a big drop in entries next year.

I do want to make it clear that 
  • I do NOT think Bridget McCrum herself is in anyway culpable of any of this nonsense which has resulted in her being awarded a prize. I suspect she's probably very embarrassed by what has happened.
  • This art competition and exhibition is NOT run by the Mall Galleries. The galleries merely provide the space which is rented by Parker Harris who organise the event on behalf of the Discerning Eye Organisation who are responsible for the conduct of the art competition and exhibition. The event is sponsored by ING Bank.

But SOMEBODY is responsible for this outcome!  I'd love to know who....

BELOW are images of the rest of the prizewinning works. The award cards are all the same size so you can tell something of the dimensions of each small work by their size relative to the card.
To enter work you must be currently resident in the UK, your work must be for sale, and it must be a maximum of twenty inches (50 centimentres) in any dimension. Artists can submit up to six works which can be two or three dimensional using any media. ING Discerning Eye website

Founder's Purchase Prize - £2,500 in honour of Michael Reynolds

“Bernie Katz: In Memoriam” by Lorna May WadsworthAcrylic, 23 carat gold and oil on gesso panel | 6x10 ins
 £2,500 (sold)
It occurs to me that possibly the trick to winning a Purchase Prize is to pitch the price of your work to the value of the prize!

Her painting of Mrs Thatcher - from live sittings - was a talking point at the Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize and exhibition in 2008, principally for its £100,000 price tag.

Chairman's Purchase Prize - £1,000

“Light and Lamps” by Camilla Dowse
Acrylic on gesso | 30cm x 30cm
£800 (sold)
Camilla Dowse has won a number of prizes in recent art competitions. She also won The Chairman’s Purchase Prize at the ING Discerning Eye Exhibition, 2017.

I don't think I've ever come across an art competition where the artist wins the same prize in the same art competition in two successive years.

Meynell Fenton Prize - £1,000

“A space in the sun” by John KnightsMixed media | 18x13 ins
I can't find anybody online who looks as if they could have produced this work. Maybe it's a pseudonym?

Humphreys Purchase Prize - £750

“Melting Snow 2018” by Ann Elliott
Stoneware, crank, porcelain slip | 12x12x11 ins
I really liked this work.
Ann Elliott is a curator who organises exhibitions and manages a portfolio of visual arts projects. She was a curatorial trainee at Sheffield City Art Galleries, an Exhibition Officer in the Visual Arts Department at The British Council and the first Head of Sculpture at the Cass Foundation when it opened in 1994.  

She is a latecomer to ceramics

Wright Purchase Prize - £500

Still-Life With Shell” by David Caldwell
Oil on paper ~ 12x11 ins

DE Sculpture and 3D Work Prize - £250

“Aeolian Sphere III” by Dominic Welch
Kilkenny Limestone ~ 19x19x19 ins

St Cuthberts Mill Award

“The Vasari Corridor Unfolding” by June Corpuz
Another artist with no online presence.

Regional Prizes of £250 each for outstanding entries from the regions


“Divided Commerce - ( 54°35'44.5"N 5°50'24.2"W)” by Stephen Johnston
Oil £900


“Adjacent and obscure paths” by Cedric Huson
Acrylic £2,800
Cedric Huson won the top £5,000 prize 10 years ago in 2008 (see ING Discerning Eye 2008 - Prizewinners). He'd been invited to exhibit by Fred Cuming who was one of the Artist Selector / Curators in 2008.


“Bridlington Fashionista” by Elizabeth Nast
Watercolour £435
I met Elizabeth Nast when she was a candidate for membership of the RI in 2017 - see
RI Annual Exhibition 2017 - Candidates and Awards


“Orange Study” by Laura Critchlow
Acrylic £540 (sold)
Laura Critchlow is a miniature artist who exhibits with the Royal Society of Miniature Artists.
Her work 'Pear Shaped', was selected by Chris Orr to be a part of the ING Discerning Eye Exhibition 2016, and won the Wright Purchase Prize.


“Girls And Boys Come Out To Play” by Stephen Gibbs


“Untitled 2/2018” by Peter Vaillant


“Cowslips” by Olywn Bowey
Oil, £800
Olwyn Bowey was elected as a Royal Academician in 1975

More about the ING Discerning Eye

The Discerning Eye website maintains an archive.

The following are all posts about the ING Discerning Eye competition/exhibition on Making A Mark over the last 11 years.

In the 2018 exhibition 78% of the artists and 63% of the works are from the open submission. Painting and drawing make up over 47% of the works, mixed media and sculpture about 30%, printmaking about 13%, and photography and film about 10% this year.

The 2017 exhibition comprised 465 works by 237 artists. 75% of the artists and 55% of the works are from the open submission. Painting and drawing make up over 60% of the works, mixed media and sculpture about 15%, printmaking a further 8%, and photography about 5% this year.

The 2016 exhibition comprises over 700 works by over 400 artists. 70% of the artists and 60% of the works are from the open submission. Painting and drawing make up about 70% of the works, mixed media and sculpture about 13%, printmaking a further 7%, and photography about 5% this year.










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