Monday, November 20, 2023

Review: ING Discerning Eye Exhibition 2023

The ING Discerning Eye Exhibition 2023 opened to the public last Friday - when I visited. This is a review of what I found - but first some facts about this very unusual exhibition and how it works - and who are the six selectors who have created six very different exhibits in 2023

(This post has been updated since it was first published with respect to the number of entries, selected works and artists - see below)

The end of the West Gallery featured a lot of sculpture and 3D works.
I couldn't quite work out whether these all related to just one selector
as the names of the artists suggested not.....

At a time when sponsorship is being withdrawn and art competitions are dying on their feet, ING are to be very much applauded for their continued sponsorship of this open art competition / exhibition.
  • ING has been supporting this exhibition every year since 1999!
  • This makes it one of the longest corporate art sponsorships in the UK
Since it began in 1999, 11,000 works by 4,000 artists have been exhibited, £290,000 has been awarded in prize money, and over £1 million worth of art has been sold on behalf of the artists

The ING Discerning Eye Exhibition

The Discerning Eye is a visual arts focused educational charity. Its principal activity is to hold a rather unique annual exhibition sponsored by the bank ING - and hence it is known as the ING Discerning Eye Exhibition.

Ian Watkin's Exhibit

What's special about this exhibition is that it is:
  • an annual show of small-scale works - which are all for sale
  • chosen by two artists, two art collectors and two critics / people who have art-related occupations
  • as a result, there are six different exhibits - one for each of the selectors
  • while 25% of each exhibits MUST come from the open entry, the selectors are also able to invite artists they like to exhibit their work
  • it's a good opportunity for 
    • emerging artists to get their work seen, appreciated and exhibited - albeit in a small way!
    • artists whose work may not always please ALL the selectors!
Within each selection works from, as yet lesser known artists, hang alongside pieces by those who are more established or internationally recognised.
The exhibition is 
  • open daily 10am - 5pm in all three galleries at the Mall Galleries in London
  • it closes on Sunday 26th November at 1pm

Plus I am going to be uploading my photographs of the exhibition to an album on my Making A Mark Facebook Page.
I've included representative ones of each exhibit in this review.

Part of the Exhibit by Chris Levine in the North Gallery
- probably the most curated and gallery like of them all in terms of presentation

The 2023 Curators

Links embedded in the selectors name are to their ONLINE EXHIBIT.
(Quite why the URL for each exhibit bears absolutely no relationship to the selector's name is beyond me - but is the sort of thing I notice!)


Curator/ Critics

  • Péjú Oshin, a distinguished curator, currently Associate Director at Gagosian
  • Eliza Gluckman, Director of the Government Art Collection
Eliza Gluckman - part of her exhibition in the East Gallery

Art Collectors

  • Ian "H" Watkins one of the singers in Steps who is passionate about painting
  • Tony Adams - former Arsenal and England football captaiN.
The exhibit by Tony Adams - in the West Gallery

My review

My reviews tend to focus on a lot of practical aspects and things of interest to artists wanting to be selected for the exhibition, visitors to the exhibition and those whose wanting to buy. These are all summed up below in 
  • what I liked
  • what I disliked 
That's not to say I don't have an opinion on the art - but it is so diverse and eclectic it's difficult to have a coherent view about the artwork itself

What I liked


The exhibition, as always looks most impressive in terms of the sheer quantity of the artwork on display. 

As always it's very interesting to note how different selectors hang their artwork. 
  • Eliza Gluckman had a portrait wall
  • Chris Levine had a textile art wall - and had what seemed to me to be the most curated and "gallery like" of all the exhibitions. There again he did have a whole gallery to himself!
  • Julian Wild likes things I like - especially in relation to precise monocromatic geometry
  • Ian Watkins seems to have a passion for landscapes
  • Tony Adams had some of the most interesting pieces in the exhibition.

Pricing and Sales

There is no minimum price - which artists make the most of for selling their small works. It was good to see lots of artists being realistic about pricing small artworks in the current climate - many of whom are reaping the benefit of selling their art

If you click an artwork in the online exhibit, you can see what the original price is and whether it sold.

I went around noting the number of sales after the private view and during the first morning it was open to the public and I was very pleasantly surprised by how many sales there were - with a very large percentage of sales being below £500. As one might reasonably expect for small artworks.

Interestingly - in terms of what sort of artwork chimes with buyers - the two selectors who had the most sales after the PV and Friday morning were the two 'amateur' art collectors!

  • Chris Levine - 16 sales
  • Julian Wild - 9 sales 
  • Eliza Gluckman - 16 sales
  • Péjú Oshin - 9 sales
Art Collectors
  • Tony Adams - 22 sales
  • Ian Watkins - 34 sales
In part it's a product of how many artworks each selector selected.

However, it make me wonder what would happen if there was an exhibition which was entirely curated by art collectors - as opposed to artists (as in art society opens) or curators (as in certain art gallery exhibitions)

Part of the exhibit by Péjú Oshin

Diverse media on display

One of the things I particularly like about the ING Discerning Eye Exhibition is that I very often see artworks I don't see elsewhere.

That's because of the diversity of the media employed to create artwork. It includes for example textiles and threadwork and cut paper artwork of enormous precision and demonstrable expertise.

3D x 3 by Simon Raines (two sold)

Very fine, very precise cut paper artwork
- in Julian Wild's exhibition

a wall of textile art - in Chris Levine's exhibition

What I really disliked

The consistent theme of what I disliked is POOR COMMUNICATION.

Prizewinners information is appalling

Good luck if anybody ever finds out you are a prizewinner - because 
  • all the prizes are listed on the website 
  • but NONE OF THE PRIZEWINNERS or images of their work appear in the prizes section several days after the exhibition opened.
I am flabbergasted that an art competition should work hard to try and attract sponsorship and then have so little regard to marketing the prize and the prizewinner. 

It's simply not good enough and in my opinion is disrespectful to both sponsor and prizewinner.

For the record I took as many photos of prizewinners as I could and you can see them in my Facebook album when this goes online (after I finish this post!)

Note: They are listed on Instagram. Pity nobody could be exercised enough to translate that information to the website.

Labelling of the artwork

  • the font size used for the labels is far too small - in fact it's TINY! Hence they are difficult to read
  • there is no mention of media on the labels so even if you could read them you'd learn precisely nothing about how it was made. Which given there are some pretty unusual media and techniques in the show is a very great pity
  • this is because half the label is taken up with the QR Code for the artwork
  • which might be useful EXCEPT 
    • you cannot get mobile broadband signals inside the gallery (although you used to be able to - so somebody needs to fix whatever has changed)
    • which means you need to access the Mall Galleries wifi signal - and I checked that and my iphone indicated "weak security" - which is a total non-starter for me i.e.  I won't use any wifi which says that. I was out of it within seconds.

So for me the answer is twofold
  • better secure broadband reception inside the gallery
  • larger labels using a larger font size

Lack of Statistics

One of the things which is really important for every art competition is to provide adequate feedback for those entering the competition. Quite apart from the legal requirements for running competitions.

This year for some reason, I cannot locate any statistics about:
    • how many artists entered the competition
    • how many artists were selected
    • how many artworks were submitted via the open exhibition
    • how many were selected
    •  What proportion of each exhibit came from the open entry
Basically, if you take a fee off an artist for entering a competition, I believe that you need to provide adequate feedback to allow artists to decide whether or not it is worth entering again next year.

I can't tell you - because there are no public statistics ON THE WEBSITE - and there should be.

Note: This Instagram post on 1st November (i.e. ample time to update the website!)  indicates there were 6,500 entries (suspiciously rounded!) out of which 628 artworks by 387 creatives were shortlisted BUT
  • NO INDICATION of how many were selected from the submissions via the Open Entry
  • NO INDICATION of how many are by artists selected by the curators separately from the Open Entry
  • the competition clearly states that any curator is only required to select 25% of their artworks from the Open Entry 
Critically there is absolutely no indication of that KEY INDICATOR for ANY art competition - what chance has my artwork got of being selected from the open entry?

I will bang on and an about this until the organisers of the ING Discerning Eye do the decent right thing - and provide information for those wanting to submit their work.


These are the demonstrations at the Galleries for the rest of the exhibition
  • Tuesday 21 November 2-4pm - Christina Dobbs: Landscape painting
  • Wednesday 22 November 2-4pm - Rae Birch Carter: Drawing movement in the gallery
  • Thursday 23 November 2-4pm - Stathis Dimitriadis: Ceramics objects and text making small sculpture poems
  • Friday 24 November 2-4pm - Abby Cocovini: Painting the series, This is a Victoria Line Train to Brixton
  • Saturday 25 November 2-4pm - Kasper Pincis: Typewritten monoprinting


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