Friday, November 05, 2021

The END of the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition?

It seems to me that the the largest and most prestigious watercolour competition in the UK has very probably died.

Without a death notice.

The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition website only contains details about the 2020 competition.

It references subscribing to the ArtOpps newsletter to find out about the 2021 competition - but here we are in November 2021 - with no time left for a competition or exhibition this year - and there's absolutely no communication anywhere about what's happening.

 Let's look at the facts

  • The planned exhibition at the Mall Galleries in early 2021 did not happen due to the lockdown - and indeed is not even listed on the Mall Galleries website as a past exhibition
  • Prizes for the 2020 exhibition were much reduced compared to its heyday.
  • The announcement of the prizewinners in 2020 is locked behind a paywall. Nor are they listed on the website - which mean it's of very littleo marketing benefit for the prizewinners
  • The website has not been updated in a very long time
  • The date of the last entry on the Facebook Page was 17th February 2021
  • The Judges of the competition in years past have been some very prestigious people e.g. Director, Government Art Collection; Desmond Shawe-Taylor CVO, Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures; Dr Kim Sloan, Curator, Department of Prints and Drawings, British Museum and a Sunday Times critic who actually knew what he was talking about. Less so in the recent past. Indeed last year they announced the competition without announcing the Judges!
I last did a post about the exhibition in August 2020 when I wrote 10 changes in the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2020 Call for Entries
The significant reduction in prize money and other prizes really takes a LOT of prestige away from this competition. Which is incredibly sad as this competition has been seen as very prestigious for very many years - until recently.
I can do no more than highlight what I said in that post - and reiterate that the time has really come for a very major change.
Like I said last year (see Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2019 - Prizewinners & Exhibition),  in my opinion it's time for 
  • another MAJOR CHANGE in the competition/of the main sponsor
  • to one which wants to provide more credibility and prestige that this art competition has enjoyed in the past
  • more involvement of painters in traditional watercolours as Judges.
This is because:


The impact of lockdowns

The lockdowns have very obviously had a massive impact on all sorts of exhibitions and art galleries. 

Nobody would have thought twice of an organisation or organisers who announced that there would be no competition in 2021 - but that the competition would be back in 2022.

But they haven't done that (see above re. lack of communication)

So why's that? Can't be bothered. Still mulling things over?

The reality

The reality is there is NO PRESTIGIOUS ANNUAL WATERCOLOUR COMPETITION in the UK any more.
It seems to me that anybody who cares to sponsor and create a proper watercolour competition in 2022 - with proper prizes - can take over the mantle anytime they like.

After all, this was originally the Singer & Friedlander Watercolour Competition before it became known as The Sunday TimesWatercolour Competition.

Time for a new beginning?

There's nothing to stop somebody taking it on board and carrying it on with a new name - because The Sunday Times has very obviously been less than properly supportive of it for a number of years.

In my view it's time for an aesthetic coup to achieve a new beginning and a reinvigorated competition. 

Maybe the RWS, RI and RSW could get their respective heads together - and team up with a suitable sponsor? A competition backed by the three leading watercolour competitions would certainly have some credibility. Although, I guess each might be concerned about the potential to cannibalise their own competitions. That said all have happily co-existed for many years - so I would have thought there was scope to reinvent and reinvigorate. Maybe by having a competition limited to traditional watercolours only?

How about it?

PS If I is going to be revived - how about saying something somewhere?

2017 - 87 paintings by 78 artists were selected from 1,057 submissions. 
2016 - 75 paintings by 66 artists were selected
2015 - 90 works by 80 artists were selected
2014 - 93 works by 73 artists from across the UK

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