Prizes & awards
Prizes by competition
Nina Madden gives an overview of some of the visual art prizes selected from open submission competitions.
Winning a prize can have a positive impact on an artists career beyond the often well-needed influx of extra cash.
There is usually a positive knock-on effect on an artists career even if it can sometimes be hard to identify if it actually was the prize that opened the doors to new opportunities, or if the work is simply tapping into something larger at that moment in time. Even being shortlisted can make a difference as it provides exposure for the artist.
The notion of a seal of approval through bringing contemporary art into the fold of the institution by awarding it a prize for talent, excellence or importance, is a little ironic considering the history of the avant garde and art prizes.
Nevertheless winning is part of a process of institutionalisation and although artists in receipt of more established prizes usually are fairly established already, all the prizes featured here are open submission and so in principal at least can be seen to offer opportunity to all.
There are different types of art prizes. Some are achievement prizes awarded to artists who have made an important contribution to the artworld, others are encouragement awards that showcase emerging artists. A number of such prizes now offer a professional development package often including support towards a solo show which can be an important step for artists on the path to wider recognition.
Some open exhibitions included here have no actual prize winner as such but due to their highly competitive application process and recognised status for identifying rising stars, being selected for inclusion can have a similar profile-raising effect.
ING Discerning Eye
The ING Discerning Eye competition is an annual open submission exhibition for artists born or residing in the UK. Launched in 1990 by the Discerning Eye, an educational arts based charity, it is hosted by the Mall Galleries each November. The ING Discerning Eye accepts work in any media but the work cannot be larger than 20x20 inches.
The selection panel consists of six selectors; two artists, two critics, and two art collectors. This makes for an interesting selection panel, and previous selectors have included Davina McCall, HRH The Prince of Wales and Anne Robinson.
Because of the works small size it has become known amongst art buyers as a place where it is possible to acquire affordable domestic art.
A wide array of prizes ranging from £250 to £5,000 in value are awarded. The David Gluck Discerning Eye Bursary of £1,000 is offered to encourage and support artists whilst developing their practice.
Further information and submission details can be found at www.parkerharris.co.uk
John Moore’s Painting Prize
The John Moore’s Exhibition of Contemporary Painting is the best known and perhaps the most prestigious painting prize in the UK. It has been held at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool since its inception in 1957. It is a biannual event and since 1999 it has worked as a strand of the Liverpool Biennial.
The Prize is open to artists of all levels of experience who are residing in the UK. Each artist is only allowed to submit one painting - unless it’s a diptych or triptych - and the work must be available for sale.
The entries are judged anonymously. This is of course an impossibility when many of the artists who enter are well known. In 2010 the jury was made up of Gary Hume, Alison Watt, Ged Quinn, Goshka Macuga and Sir Norman Rosenthal.
Since 1980 the Walker Art Gallery has automatically added the first prize-winning work to its collection as part of the terms of the award.
In 2010, the winner of the £25,000 first prize was Keith Coventry for his painting Spectrum Jesus, described by Norman Rosenthal as “full of ambiguity and contradictions”. The four runners-up were Philip Diggle, Nick Fox, Nicholas Middleton and Daniel Sturgis, who each received £2,500. Nicholas Middleton won the Visitors Choice Prize for the second time, having previously been awarded the accolade in 2006.
Other winners of the John Moore's Prize include Alexis Harding, Callum Innes, Michael Raedecker, Peter Doig, Peter Davies, David Hockney and Richard Hamilton.
Jerwood Charitable Foundation
The Jerwood Charitable Foundation administers several important open-submission art prizes. The Foundation’s aim is to support and nurture talent at the early or emerging stages of practitioners’ careers. The prizes and awards include:
- Jerwood Makers Open
- Jerwood Drawing Prize
- Jerwood Painting Fellowships
These are covered in more detail in this profile »
Jerwood Makers Open
Jerwood Makers Open is an open-submission initiative designed to support and showcase emerging artists working in the applied arts. The scheme offers bursaries to four makers to create new works, which are exhibited in an annual exhibition as part of the Jerwood Visual Arts programme.
The Jerwood Drawing Prize
The Jerwood Drawing Prize was set up in 1994 and has grown steadily over the years. Nearly 3,000 entries were submitted in 2010, from which seventy artists were chosen for the exhibition. Winners were Virginia Verran (£6,000) and Cadi Froehlich (£3,000). Warren Andrews and James Eden & Olly Rooks each won Student Prizes of £1,000.
Jerwood Painting Fellowships
The Jerwood Painting Fellowships were launched in July 2010. In its inaugural year Fellows were Clare Mitten, Cara Nahaul and Corinna Till, who each received a bursary of £10,000 and a six-month period of critical and professional development support from mentors.
New Contemporaries is an annual open submission exhibition making visible the work of new and emerging artists from British art schools, at the start of their careers.
It has a well-established reputation for identifying serious artists from each generation and thus is closely watched by gallerists, collectors and curators looking for the next bright star. It is sponsored by Bloomberg and currently known as Bloomberg New Contemporaries.
It is open to final year undergraduates and current postgraduate students of fine art at UK colleges, as well as artists within one year of graduating. Work in any medium is considered including painting, sculpture, installation, photography, multi-media, live work, video and moving image, computer-based work and websites. There is an entry fee of £15 and all visual material is returned.
The call for submissions attracts in excess of 1,000 submissions each year from which an average of thirty-five artists are selected. The panel is a team of peer-group selectors – always artists and usually writers and curators – applying principles of artistic excellence: peer group validation and critical discussion.
The exhibition has no permanent venue instead it travels to different galleries giving it the benefit of a changing relationship to audience and place.
Selected artists for 2007 included: Steve Bishop, Lucy Coggle, Mary Ferguson, Dido Hallett, Margot Hill, Heike Kabish, Fiona Mackay, Charlie Tweed and Yohei Yashi.
The deadline for submissions usually falls between December and February. For current dates and full details on the application process see www.newcontemporaries.org.uk
The Threadneedle Prize for Painting and Sculpture
The Threadneedle Prize was launched in 2008. Originally titled The Threadneedle Figurative Prize, the name now highlights the award's focus on painting and sculpture. The Prize encourages artists to submit "fresh and intriguing works that are strong, contemporary and topical observations on the world; paintings and sculptures that challenge and lend new meaning to contemporary representational art."
In 2011 over 50 works by 45 artists were chosen for the prize exhibition which takes place each year at the Mall Galleries. Artists can submit up to three works each in a variety of mediums and on any form of support. Original prints and drawings, sculptures, mixed media constructions, small-scale installations and reliefs are also eligible for entry. Photography or video is accepted only where they form part of a mixed media installation.
With two main prizes and six runners-up prizes, the prize money totals over £40,000. The winner of the main £25,000 prize is chosen by a panel of three selectors from a shortlist of seven works. Each of the six runners up receives £1,000. In 2011 the selectors were Julie Lomax, London Head of Visual Arts, Arts Council England; Lisa Milroy, artist and Head of Graduate Painting at the Slade and Godfrey Worsdale, 2011 Turner Prize Juror and Director of the BALTIC. All works in the exhibition are eligible to win the £10,000 Visitors’ Choice prize. The same artist can win both prizes, making The Threadneedle Prize potentially the most valuable competition for a single work of art in the UK.
The winner in 2010 was Patricia Cain.
Nina Madden is a writer critic and arts manager based in London.
First published: a-n.co.uk February 2008
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