Thursday, April 20, 2017

BP Portrait Award Exhibition 2017 - Selected Artists

This year 2,580 artists entered portraits for the BP Portrait Award - but only 53  from 87 countries were selected for the 2017 Exhibition of the BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery this summer.

This blog post is about those artists who have been selected to exhibit in the BP Portrait Award 2017 Exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery this summer.
the BP Portrait Award 2017 represents the very best in contemporary portrait painting
Here are some numbers:
  • In terms of entries, out of the 2,580 entries from all over the world
    • 1,214 Entries came from the UK - England, Scotland and Wales (47%)
    • 1,366 Entries came from 84 other countries(53%)
  • 218 paintings (8.4%) of the original entries made it through to the final judging session at Trinity Buoy Wharf. 
  • The judges then reduced this number to their selection of the final 53 for the exhibition (representing 2% of the total number of entries).
Alan Coulson with his portrait painting selected for the BP Portrait Award 2017
See the names of the selected artists - organised by the country where they live at present - BELOW - plus:
  • links to their websites and 
  • a short summary of their CV 
  • some photos of the artists and/or their portraits
Allocation to country takes detective work! Where I couldn't work out a country I created a category at the end called "unknown". If anybody spots a mistake with a website please let me know via comment or contact me.

SELECTED ARTISTS ARE INVITED to send me a copy of the image of their portrait - to feature in this blog post - along with a copy of their confirmation email. See the side column for how to contact me.

The Best of the Rest

My commiserations to all those reading this who entered but were not selected for the exhibition
  • My BP "Best of the Rest" will be published on Sunday (subject to receiving enough images of portraits)
  • See my blog post How to enter my BP Portrait "Best of the Rest" 2017 for my invite to those who failed to get selected for the exhibition
  • At the end of the post, you can find links to my posts about selected artists in previous years. Taken together these are an excellent method for studying the type of portraiture which gets selected for this award.

BP Portrait Award 2017 - Exhibiting Artists

Yesterday I posted about the artists shortlisted for the prizes - see BP Portrait Award 2017 - The Shortlist.

Today I must congratulate all those artists who have been selected for the exhibition.

  • LINKS TO THEIR WEBSITES are embedded in their names in the list below (where available). 
  • Previous prizewinners are highlighted in red
  • Those previously selected for the BP have a link to previous portraits (unless they were in those years of the very irritating exhibitor listings where you have to go through all portraits one by one from the beginning and/or there were a lot!)
  • For those without a website see my blog post listed on my Major Art Competitions in the UK page
The Websites of Contemporary Painters in the UK - Get your website sorted BEFORE you enter a juried art competition or miss out on the traffic when the names of selected artists are announced!
The photos below are a mix of
  • portraits sent to me of work selected for this year's exhibition and 
  • images of artists with their portraits due to being selected for previous exhibits.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

BP Portrait Award 2017 - The Shortlist

The three artists shortlisted for the First Prize in the 38th BP Portrait Award are:
All the shortlisted portraits feature female sitters and are painted in three different media - egg tempera, oil and acrylic.  All the painters have previously had works selected for the BP exhibition. Each of them is guaranteed a prize - but only one has previously won a prize in this very prestigious art competition.

Below is a summary about each artist. The names of the first, second and third prizewinners will be announced at the Awards Ceremony, which will be on the evening of Tuesday 20th June. It must be nice to go to it as a shortlisted artist knowing the worst that can happen is you're coming away with a cheque for a considerable sum of money - somewhere between £8,000 and £30,000.

Tomorrow's blog post will be about the artists selected for the exhibition.  (Artists can start emailing me images of their portraits if they'd like to see them featured in the post)

The BP Portrait Award Exhibition will be on display at the following venues:
  • National Portrait Gallery, London all summer. It opens to the public on 22 June and continues until 24 September 2017 (Admission Free)
  • Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery Exeter (4 October – 3 December 2017); 
  • Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh (December 2017 – March 2018); 
  • Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens (March – June 2018.)

Artists shortlisted for the BP Portrait Award 2017

This highly successful annual event is aimed at encouraging artists over the age of eighteen to focus upon, and develop, the theme of portraiture in their work.
The prizes for this competition, which attracts entries from all over the world, are as follows
  • First Prize: £30,000 plus a commission worth £5,000 to paint a portrait for the National Portrait Gallery’s Collection, to be agreed between the Gallery and the artist. 
  • Second Prize: £10,000 
  • Third Prize: £8,000.
In terms of the competition as a whole:
  • The Entry: The shortlist of three was selected from 2,580 portraits by artists from 87 countries (the entry is limited to one portrait per artist). 
  • Selected Artists: Tomorrow's blog post will be about who got selected for the exhibition. I'll be linking their websites to the names of the artists and doing a brief synopsis of the artist and their work.
  • The Best of the Rest: the closing date for How to enter my BP Portrait "Best of the Rest" 2017- of those not selected - is Friday.

Thomas Ehretsmann

Double Portrait by Thomas Ehretsmann
(300 x 400mm, Acrylic on board)
Age: 42 (Born in Mulhouse France in 06.07.1974)
Nationality: French
Occupation: artist and illustrator. His illustration work has been featured in the New Yorker, Rolling Stone and Elle Magazine.
Current home:
Art education: a degree in illustration from the Ecole des Arts Décoratifs, Strasbourg
Previous appearances in this award: Vacuum 2 was selected for the BP Portrait Award 2016 exhibition
Title / Media: Double Portrait (300 x 400mm, Acrylic on board)
Subject: Double Portrait captures a moment when the artist was walking in the park with his wife, Caroline. The title, Double Portrait, suggest the passage from one state of being to another as Caroline was eight months pregnant at the time.
Ehretsmann was struck by the light on Caroline’s face which he said reminded him of the work of naturalist painters Jules Bastien-Lepage and Emile Friant. 
I met Thomas last year - see BP Portrait Award 2016 - Artists with their paintings - so this is the first year for me that I've met all three artists prior to the announcement!

This year, as last, his paintings comprises multiple layers of semi-transparent acrylic paint - painted in very small hatching marks. He's also a master of tone control in muted and darker passages of the painting.

I met Thomas last year at the preview

Benjamin Sullivan

I've had Ben Sullivan 'tagged' as a future BP Portrait First Prizewinner for as long as I've been writing this blog and covering this competition!

He paints absolutely beautifully and also captures extremely good likenesses of everybody he paints.

He's exhibited in every BP Portrait Exhibition every year since 2006. I love the fact that in addition to his regular commissions, he also paints his family. It was wonderful to finally meet up with Ginnie and Edith, their new baby, at last year's Awards Ceremony when Ben won 3rd Prize. She was such a big hit with everybody, I'm not in the least bit surprised in the choice for this year's portrait!

Monday, April 17, 2017

How to enter my BP Portrait "Best of the Rest" 2017

The consolation prize for the 218 artists...
  • who made it through to the final round of the BP Portrait Award 2017 
  • BUT did not get selected for the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery my "Best of the Rest" blog post!

This week the selected artists for the BP Portrait Award 2017 will be announced.

In 2016, I had my first My "Best of the Rest" from BP Portrait Award Entries blog post for the very high calibre portraits that did not make it through.  It was enormously popular and I think identified very clearly what a high standard of portraiture gets submitted to this competition.

So I'm going to do the same again this year - which I suspect will please all those who have been asking me am I doing it again.

Subject to enough submissions I'm happy to display "the ten best of the rest" i.e. of submissions sent to me for review that were not chosen for exhibition by the BP Portrait Selectors this year. Below you can find out how...

The first artist, Justin Russell, has pre-selected himself through submitting his portrait early! (see below). Justin is a London based artist, specialising in realism and hyper-realistic painting. Justin made it through to my best of the rest top 10 in 2016.

Mr Cyril by Justin Russell
oil on board, 120 x 90cm

Rejected to selected

This invitation is ONLY extended to those artists whose portraits were rejected by the BP Portrait Portrait Award 2017 Selection Panel.

What I need from the artists whose entries were rejected is:
  • TWO digital images
    • your portrait as per the image you submitted (I want good images to review). I'll then downsize the images of the ten best and make them web-ready for the blog. They will be displayed @72 dpi with the longest dimension being no bigger than 600 pixels 
    • PLUS a scan or photo of your 2017 rejection letter from the competition showing the date, the email address of the NPG and the name of the sender of the email + your name, competition number and the outcome of selection. (I'm no fool - I don't want to be drowned in portraits from those who forgot to send their entries in or got rejected in previous years!). 
  • PLUS dimensions and media of the portrait in your email
  • PLUS your website domain URL. I will provide a link to your website if your portrait gets posted - much as I do for the selected artists.
  • receipt of your entry by Friday 21st April.

The likelihood is that all my "best of the rest" will be selected from the final 218 artists. However, if you think your portrait is really good and you've previously been selected for the BP Portrait Award please also submit your portrait and rejection letter for 2017 (as per instructions above) to the email address below.

I'll post my "Best of the Rest" post next Sunday.

Selected for the BP Portrait Award?

If you've been selected for the BP Portrait Award 2017 exhibition - and want an image of your painting included in the "selected artists" blog post on Wednesday, please do the same as above - but include your selection letter!

Where to send your email entry

This web page gives you my email address - on the top right, under the pic of me.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Noli me tangere

"Noli me tangere" is a phrase which has generated paintings across the centuries.

It's particularly relevant to Easter Sunday as the phrase is the Latin version of what Jesus Christ is supposed to have said to Mary Magdalene when she saw him after his resurrection (John 20: 14-18) - which is, of course, what Easter Sunday is supposed to be all about.

(This post is to counterbalance the Easter Bunny festival we seem to have these days!)

Scenes from the Passion of Christ by Hans Memling by Hans Memling
oil on panel
Galleria Sabauda, Turin
click the link to see the entire picture
'Noli me tangere' variously translates - depending on whether you are looking at
  • the Greek source - "cease holding on to me" or "stop clinging to me"
  • or Latin derivation "don't tread on me" or "don't touch me."
Below are images of the various paintings titled Noli me tangere - in chronological order, with details of who painted them. Paintings are sourced from Wikimedia Commons (link in the title). The location cited in the caption often links to the information page about the painting at the gallery, museum or church where it is now.

I find it fascinating how one single theme - and a phrase - can generate so many different interpretations by different artists over time - especially since the artists are like a roll call of the greats!

Below you can see the development of art by Giotto, Duccio, Fra Angelico, Memling, Botticelli, Dürer, Titian, Holbein, Poussin, Lorrain

No. 37 Scenes from the Life of Christ: 21. Resurrection (Noli me tangere) (1304-06) by Giotto di Bondone (1266/7 – 1337)
Fresco, 200 x 185 cm
Cappella Scrovegni (Arena Chapel), Padua
Giotto completed a fresco cycle in The Scrovegni Chapel in Padua. The frescoes narrate events in the lives of the Virgin Mary and Christ and cover all the walls.

There are various online images of the Giotto fresco relating to the resurrection (Noli me tangere) because of a recent full-scale restoration of all the frescos in the chapel (hence 'before' and 'after').

This 2015 blog post is worth a read The Scrovegni Chapel: My Moment with Giotto’s Masterpiece

Noli me tangere (Maestà de Sienne) (c.1308-11)
- by Duccio di Buoninsegna (1255-1319) 

Tempera and gold on wood, 51 x 57 cm
Museo dell'Opera Metropolitana del Duomo, Siena
I'll never ever forget when I was introduced for the first time to The Maestà by Duccio di Buoninsegna in Sienna.  Several individual paintings make up an incredible impressive altarpiece which was installed in Siena Cathedral on 9 June 1311. The reverse comprises a combined cycle of the Life of the Virgin and the Life of Christ in a total of forty-three small scenes. This is one of those.

In this painting, the landscape plays a major part in emphasising the posture of Mary Magdalene.

Noli me tangere (c.1440-1442) by Fra Angelico (1395-1455)
Fresco, Height: 166 cm (65.4 in). Width: 125 cm (49.2 in)
San Marco, Florence
This fresco by Fra Angelico is in the former Dominican Friary of San Marco in Florence - now the Museo Nazionale di San Marco. The Museums of Florence website tells you more about it and the art it contains

One of the things which struck me while reviewing the painting is what a major part vegetation plays in many of the paintings - and the variations as to whether it was local to the painter or more associated with the Middle East.

Advent and Triumph of Christ (detail) 1480
by Hans Memling (1433-1494)

oil on oak, 31.89 inch wide x 74.41 inch high
Alte Pinakothek, Munich, Bavaria, Germany
I'm a big fan of Hans Memling (in terms of paintings I've personally seen) but am not very well acquainted with all his works. I had no idea he had painted the 'Passion of Christ' as a complete painting (see the painting at the top). In that the meeting between Christ and Mary Magdalene is tiny.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2017 - Call for Entries

This is my annual post about the Call for Entries for the 30th Sunday Times Watercolour Competition. For the 2017 competition, you will find below:
  • a summary of the process
  • tips for those thinking of entering this prestigious watercolour competition; and
  • plus links to all the blog posts I've written in previous years about the exhibition, who won prizes and who got selected - and their websites!

The Call for Entries - Process and Key Points

this competition aims to celebrate and reward excellence and originality in the genre of watercolour painting.
This post provides an overview of the whole process plus key details relating to
  • key points you need to know - and not forget!
  • who can enter
  • what you can enter
  • how to enter
  • the time table
  • the prizes
  • the judges
  • the exhibition
For those who know the STWC of old the most important change this year is that Smith & Williamson appear to have pulled their sponsorship - so no prize for cityscapes and no additional tour to other venues in the UK - which is very sad.

Winners Wall in the 2016 Sunday Times Watercolour Competition

What you really need to know

The judges will be looking for work that makes the most imaginative or otherwise impressive use of a water-based medium.
  • The deadline for submissions 5pm, 26th June 2017. 
  • Open to all artists painting in watercolour who currently live (legally) in the UK
  • Entry for the 2017 competition is digital and ONLINE.
  • up to 4 artworks can be submitted @£15 per work entered
  • Your digital file for submission needs to be 300 dpi with a jpeg, tif or png file size of 500kb or less
  • You'll find out on 4 July 2017, via email, whether or not you have been selected for the final judging in front of the selection panel.
  • You only submit your watercolour if you're shortlisted. You need to deliver work to London on 14th or 15th July 2017
  • This is the official website. Plus these are the rules
  • The top prize is £10,000 BUT the prize pot has been cut (details below). 
  • It's unclear whether there is going to be a tour this year

  • You review the images from past exhibitions (see blog posts reviewing past SWC exhibitions at the end of this post)
  • you review the Facebook Page for the competition - which demonstrates the diversity of ways in which watercolour can be used 
  • Have a go and enter two works
  • The cost relative to the achievement and the experience is negligible
This gives you a sense of size of the artwork selected last year

Eligible artists - who can enter

  • The competition is open to all artists born or currently resident in the UK (i.e. you don't have to be a British citizen). 
  • There are no age limits for artists wishing to enter.

What you can enter

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Why art prices rise - inflation, status and market value

There are three main reasons why the price of art rises:
  • an increase in the perceived worth of the art in the marketplace
  • a change in the status of the artist 
  • inflation
I'm going to unpick these below (in reverse prder) and suggest some reasons why raising prices in the absence of any of the above might be the artistic equivalent of shooting yourself in the foot!

Price Inflation

Many of who grew up with rampant inflation still have it factored into our brains as a really sound reason as to why prices rise.

However, if you exclude house prices, general consumer prices have not moved much in recent years. In fact, we've been living through a time of extremely low inflation. (It almost went negative at one point!)


This is what has happened over the last 9 years in the UK


I came across a very handy calculator online - the Historical UK inflation rates and calculator (which uses Office for National Statistics figures) - which calculates what a value in a specific year would be worth in today's values.

It allows you to extrapolate a sale price in a past year to one at today's date - based purely on inflation

  • 2008: priced and sold a painting for £500
  • 2017: the same sort of painting priced today = £635
TIP: If you're having problems selling your paintings, why not try checking back to when you were achieving sales and checking prices you charged then to the ones you are charging now?

Change in status of the artist

An artist who wins a major prize or becomes elevated to membership of an art society or secures gallery representation - or gets mentioned on the television or in the press - sometimes starts to reflect their change in status in the prices they charge for their paintings.

The reality is that although a positive status change can add credibility to the story you tell about your paintings they rarely add a significant amount to the price you can charge; unless you KNOW you can sustain that price over time - when your change in status is yesterday's news.

In general terms, a steady increase slowly over time, backed up a credible CV which indicates growing acceptance and recognition within the marketplace (eg increased exhibitions; moving from group exhibitions to solo exhibitions / rinse and repeat!) provides a much more sustainable basis for increasing prices over time.

Put another way, what are you going to do if you increase your prices because you get taken on by a gallery - and then get dropped by that gallery a year later because your paintings are not selling? It's not just music companies who take a hard look at the talent in relation to numbers!

TIP: Aim to set an upward trend in terms of exhibitions, sales and prices - but don't over-reach on price such that it has a negative effect on exhibitions and sales.

Do NOT try and be a one hit wonder! Use the change in status to raise your profile and anything and everything in your marketing that helps to promote more sales. After all sales are what generate income, not price increases!

Increase in perceived value in the marketplace

There are all sorts of things that create value in the marketplace. 
  • Perception of value helps to generate market value - and it can be very difficult to change perceived value.
  • Perceived value is also not the same as real value - which is why we get fluctuations - especially if the latter can be validated through other means. (eg prove an artwork is a fake and it instantly loses value - as the value is in who created it not what it looks like)
  • Perceived value in the secondary market has a major influence on current real value in the marketing of new artwork for sale. 

Examples of perceived value

Some examples of ways in which artwork is perceived to have value include:
  • oil paintings are ALWAYS valued higher than watercolour paintings:
    • this means you can't charge the same for watercolours and oil paintings of the same size by the same artist - because that's just NOT the way the market sees the value (even if you're John Singer Sargent!)
    • BUT you can change perceived value if you change the way you frame your watercolours so they look more like oil paintings!
  • artwork by men is traditionally ALWAYS valued higher than artwork by women in the marketplace. 
    • This is an extract from an NYT article from 2005 which provides a very neat synopsis of the issue and the problem. 
Take two contemporary artists, Damien Hirst and Rachel Whiteread, who both came to prominence in the 1990's as so-called Y.B.A.'s: Young British Artists. Both have won the Tate museum's Turner Prize: Ms. Whiteread in 1993 and Mr. Hirst in 1995. And both have made their way into high-profile collections. Next week Christie's is offering an important early sculpture by Ms. Whiteread, a fiberglass and rubber cast of two mattresses from 1991, which has been on extended loan to the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin. Christie's suggests a value of $400,000 to $600,000. Meanwhile, Mr. Hirst's most famous early sculpture, a tiger shark suspended in a glass tank of formaldehyde, from 1992, sold in January for $13.3million.

According to conventional wisdom, the value of an artist's work increases when she has shows in prestigious museums. But as Mark Fletcher, a private art adviser who has dealt in work by both artists, said, "Whiteread has an extraordinary, esteemed museum exhibition and patronage history, but it's Hirst, which has little such institutional support, which does extremely well in the marketplace."

The X Factor: Is the Art Market Rational or Biased? | Greg Allen | New York Times May 1, 2005
    • However, if you appeal to a niche market for specialist artwork, it seems to me that the gender differences very often become minimised e.g. the avid collectors of paintings of birds are much more interested in the species portrayed and the quality of the painting than the gender of the artist.
  • the value of artwork in the secondary market is often determined by "art advisers" 
    • Demand in the market at the high end is for quality and provenance
    • However, art advisers often don't actually "know" the value of artwork in an objective and validated way - just that they are believed to "know more" than the knowledge of the collector. 
Buyers in other investment markets would not approach any major purchase without a team of highly vetted and professional advisors. In the art market, however, it has been common for buyers to rely on reputation, personal judgement and opinion. Even in areas where forensics, science, legal and other due diligence are available, collectors have often deferred to promises and the opinions of advisors.  Plotting the art market: An interview with Clare McAndrew
    • The implication is that in order to increase your perceived worth in the secondary marketplace you need to have the backing of those with some sort of standing.
resale prices matter to collectors, as auction sellers are not inclined to sell if they are likely to make a loss. This supports the theory that there is much more to collecting art than following the simple conventional rhetoric of “just buying what you like and selling what you don’t”.  Deloitte Art and Finance Report 2016
  • Prices in a capital city are often perceived to be higher than those in the provinces - however, an artist needs to sell at the same price everywhere. 
    • It's so easy these days to check out what an artist sells his or her artwork for via their website or other galleries
    • Why would an art collector pay a premium for buying in (say) London when they could buy directly from the artist or their galleries in the provinces?
TIP: Artists should aim to monitor and manage the influence on the perception of the value of their artwork.  An artist can:
  • look for means to lever changes in the perception of the value of their artwork and their reputation as an artist. 
  • keep a close eye on the value of their artwork in the secondary market - whether that is via eBay or Christies!

Bottom line

The value of paintings is determined by whether or not they sell. In other words, the price is the sale price, not the asking price.
For all the experts and connoisseurs and scholars and analysts, when it comes right down to it, the price of a work of art is based on what buyer and seller agree it's worth, and that's all.

The X Factor: Is the Art Market Rational or Biased? | Greg Allen | New York Times May 1, 2005

For information 

I collate all information about pricing art in section on How to Price your art on my website. This includes:

Below are some links to articles / reports about the price of art:

Monday, April 10, 2017

Watching a heat of Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2018

Today I went to the Wallace Collection to watch a Heat of the Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2019However,
  • I can't tell you who the sitters are and who the artists are or show you the portraits!
  • BUT I can show you all their palettes and I can tell you about what I observed!
First some background.
There are three sitters and three artists per sitter. So I'm going to organise the pics of the palettes by sitter - and then they'll make sense in a year's time when the heat is televised!

In the pics you can see the palettes and tools they were using. Some obviously brought all their kit from home while others were taking advantage of the art supplies made available by Cass Arts who sponsor the programme.

In between the pics, I'll provide my observations and comments on the Heat.

You can speculate as much as you like as to who are the professionals and who are the amateurs - I'm not telling! However the range of people participating ranges from somebody who has just done their A levels through to an artist who was classically trained in Florence.

Sitter 1 - actress

Somebody commented on a recent blog post about an art competition, that the artists all seemed to be painting from their iPads.

I can clarify that a lot do use iPads. However, from my observations the reasons are as follows:
  • Some sitters sit still and others move a lot. A photo on an iPad gives you something to work from while the sitter comes back to the resting pose
  • Some artists are squaring up their canvases and using software on their iPads that "squares up" the photo they took. This then enables them to check the accuracy of the structure of the face as they plot it on the canvas. Seems like a good idea to me to assist with working to a time limit.
  • Not every artist is used to working from life and the iPad is like a comfort blanket. However, I do think the judges watch carefully and do know who is painting the sitter from observation and who is too dependent on their iPad.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Damien Hirst back from the deep - with an awfully expensive wreck

This is by way of a round-up of all the reviews of the latest Damien Hirst extravaganza with a summary of ratings and comments.

I've tried to sort out who has seen the exhibition as opposed to scanned the press release.

There aren't any images of the exhibition in this blog post because he's licenced all the images to Getty Images (click the link to have a look!) who have a fairly hefty charge for using them.

Synopsis of key points

Exhibition details

Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable
9 April 2017 – 3 December 2017
Solo Exhibition

Punta della Dogana, Venice

Key Points

The Exhibition

  • Themes of Reality vs Unreality; Fake News; False Facts etc. 
  • based on the notion that these are artefacts recovered from the bottom of the sea - from the wreck of an old treasure ship discovered off the coast of East Africa
  • uses the methodology of museums to present the exhibits
  • a 60ft high headless demon can be found in the courtyard of Palazzo Grassi
  • some exhibits are clear spoofs e.g. they include the faces of people such as Pharrell, Kate Moss, Rihanna et al
  • the exhibition is on display in two museums in Venice - one is an ex-Palazzo and the other is Venice's old customs building, the Dogana da Mar - which is now an art museum
As always, I've always thought that the theme underpinning much of what Hirst does involves him thumbing his nose at the art establishment.

The Metrics

  • the project took 10 years
  • comprises a collection of 189 statues 
  • created by hundreds of craftspeople employed by Hirst
  • cost c.£50 million - according to Hirst

The Art Media

  • not everything is bronze or marble - there's also quite a lot is aluminium, polyester and fibreglass 

The Partner

  • Hirst's project partner - the man who owns the art galleries - is Francois Pinault
    • the fashion billionaire who owns luxury brands (e.g. Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Alexander McQueen) and well-known everyday brands (e.g.) Samsonite - and Christies, the Auction House
    • the owner of one of the largest collections of contemporary art

Is it for Sale?

“Treasures” cost Mr. Hirst millions of dollars to produce and Mr. Pinault millions to present (exact figures were not disclosed by either man). Collectors who have been offered the works report that prices start around $500,000 apiece rising to upward of $5 million. With Damien Hirst’s market untested on such a grand scale, the question the art world is asking is, will he sink or swim in Venice?

In 2008, Hirst cut out the gallery and went straight to the Sotheby's auction house to sell a complete show Beautiful Inside My Head Forever, - the day before the crash - and made £111m. ($198 million) and created a new record for the sum raised by one artist at auction (unbelievable but true!)

This time around he seems to have created another project but this time a major contemporary art collector who owns the auction house - can collaborate on how it is marketed, presented and presumably sold.

In other words, this is what rich people do for fun....

...and to maintain the value of the art owned by art collectors and previously created by Hirst whose reputation has slipped in previous years.

Think of it as the second coming - or as one wag put it "Elvis returns to Vegas"!

The Reviews

Below are reviews I've read and are worth a read to get a perspective on this art market/museum/exhibition phenomenon.

Five star

The problem with this one is Jonathan is a fan. He wants to believe in the resurrection of Damien. Read it while tossing salt liberally over your shoulder.
The show is in fact a fiction about value and meaning, and the role of art as truth.

A blogger who has actually seen it

  • Cat Bauer Venice Blog | Unbelievable! Damien Hirst in Venice: Best Seen Through the Eyes of a Child What is most interesting about Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable is that Damien Hirst has hit upon on a creative principle innate to novelists: you can create a fictional story; you can create characters -- you can create an entire world -- and bring that world to life.
This one's interesting because this individual has actually seen it and photographed it - and asked some children what they thought of it!

Trying to remain detached

The only review I read which had tested the water re prices and sales (see quote above)
Worth a read - I think Hettie Judah gets it about right.
Probably the best actual description of the show - with some acute comments.
You begin to realise that the fictional narrative in which we’re engaged — or not — is much like a video game, with pathways endlessly dividing into other story strands.

Not the usual exhibition review

Metro | Freaky, mind-bending photos from Damien Hirst’s ‘Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable’ post-truth exhibition in Venice

This one has some great photos and some snappy comments!
Hirst’s latest exhibition makes you question the fakeness and reality of what you’re seeing, and why we go to museums at all.
Here’s the avant-garde artist’s take on cultcha.
The sculptures are spoofs of the kinds of artifacts people will queue for hours to see, from Medusa’s severed stone head…
Daily Mail | Could his £50million fake shipwreck be the downfall of Damien? LIZ JONES gets a sinking feeling at Hirst's 'sea treasures' spectacular

I rather liked this one. It has a strong sense of "the Emperor's New Clothes" about it
It's all very colourful, glitzy and embellished, and everyone is mwah-mwahing and clapping, but would you actually want to wear it?
There is an 18m tall statue in one courtyard, a Buddha made from one enormous piece of jade and a silver room, which is when, for me, it all became a bit 'ground-floor of Harrods'.

Previous posts about Damien Hirst 

Damien Hirst's paintings are really awful. I've seen better painting and better artwork in a primary school. It really is not worth spending any time on them.

Friday, April 07, 2017

RI Annual Exhibition 2017 - Candidates and Awards

How to become a member of a national art society and then how to be recognised via an award are two of the questions which perplex artists who want to progress their careers. 

Both are of course welcome additions to any artist's CV whether aspiring or already established!

They're also the sort of indicators that art galleries take very seriously. They like to have extra independent accreditation for you and your work when selling it - and what better than an art society which starts with the word 'Royal'!

Which is how this blog post comes to focus on those who aspire and those who have achieved.

Candidates for membership of the RI

"Candidates for membership" are people who have asked for their work to be considered for membership.
Election to membership of the RI is by democratic vote of the full membership, which happens at the Annual General Meeting following the Annual Exhibition.
The only criterion for applying to join the RI is to have exhibited at the RI Annual Exhibition on at least two previous occasions.
This is the page on the RI website which tells you How to Join. Once accepted as a Candidate, the Candidate then has three years to persuade the Council of the value of electing the Candidate to Full Membership of the RI. In effect, it's a bit like what other art societies call Associate Membership.

I was particularly pleased to see meet three women artists who each had four paintings being exhibited with the strapline "candidate for membership". The group of three included people who have been painting for a long time, like Varshia Bhatiaand younger artists like Elizabeth Nast.

I don't have a note of the names of all the candidates for membership as I forgot to make a note (which was very silly!). However, you can see their work on the wall on the right as you go down the stairs into the Threadneedle Space.

Varshia Bhatia - Candidate for membership of the RI
She specialises in detailed architectural paintings. 
In the exhibition are her paintings of (top left clockwise) 
Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral,
the Natural History Museum and Peers Entrance to the Houses of Parliament
I've seen Varsha Bhatia in very many open exhibitions and art competitions. She won the St Cuthberts Mill Award at the RWS Contemporary Watercolour Competition 2016 and the Schmincke Award at the RI Exhibition 2015. Interestingly she's chosen to apply to the RI rather than RWS for membership which I think is a wise move given the nature of her paintings.
Since 2001, she has exhibited in London with major art societies, namely the RI, RWS, RBA and SWA in their open exhibitions. She has had her work selected for the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition for twelve years. (website)
She has no real competition because, although there are others who produce extremely good paintings of buildings (I'm thinking of people like Deniz Roxby Bott RWS), nobody works the same size as Varshia does on a routine basis.  Do take a look at her website.  I'm amazed that Varshia has not got membership of an art society before now. She certainly deserves to be a member.

She told me that she paints on 300lb NOT watercolour paper by Saunders Waterford - because it's the only paper that suits her way of working and it doesn't cockle. (This only comes in the High White colour). She's recently been filming at St Cuthbert's Mill (along with David Parfitt and in connection with another watercolour exhibition and I'm guessing we're going to see Varsha on video very shortly.

Elizabeth Nast - Candidate for membership of the RI
Elizabeth (Liz) Nast was very pleased to meet me. Apparently, she's been following Making A Mark forever and I've previously highlighted her on my blog four times!

Elizabeth is a past winner of the RI's Young Artist Award for painters under 30 (now known as the Leathersellers Award) in 2008. She has also been selected for the ING Discerning Eye in 2015 and the Lynn Painter Stainer in 2017.  She's been selected from the Open Entry for the RI Annual Exhibition of a number of occasions (2008-2011; 2013-2017) and the Pastel Society (2013; 2015-2017) and the Society of Women Artists (2013-2015).

This is what's known as building a track record!

Kate Morgan - Candidate for membership of the RI
Awarded The Leathersellers Prize
for her group of paintings
Kate Morgan's website is as colourful as her exhibit which was very impressive - and her dress! Her work is
inspired by natural history, global wildlife and imagined worlds.
It reminded me somewhat of a brighter, fun version of the French Post- Impressionist painter Henri Rousseau who painted in a naive manner. She says on her website
For me, jungles give so much scope for my imagination with its abundance of life and natural richness. Although a lot of research into animals and specific places takes place before I even put brush to paper, once I feel I have an understanding of the subject, I enjoy where my imagination can take me.
What I liked about it is that she demonstrates the skill of being able to handle both intense and saturated colour but also to take a watercolour brush loaded/saturated with watercolour paint and put down a mark precisely in the right place in the right way, while at the same time producing complex paintings which are in no way muddled or murky.

She was awarded the Leathersellers' Prize for a young artist under the age of 30 at the RI Annual Exhibition 2017.  Previously her Solo Show at the Mall Galleries clearly demonstrated her capacity to produce a body of work in a consistent style which people like - and enough for an exhibition!

In terms of art education, Kate has a first degree in fine art, and then studied at postgraduate level at both  Glasgow School of Art and Falmouth University where she was awarded her Masters degree.

I think there's a big clue in the fact that two of the candidates have previously impressed the RI with the quality of their work before the age of 30. So if you want to impress, make sure you get those submissions in sooner rather than later!

Nigel Priddy is also a Candidate for Membership and also won a prize although I didn't get to meet him.
Doubtless somebody can tell me who else is a candidate for membership.


These are the awards which were presented at the Private View on Wednesday.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

205th Annual Exhibition of the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour

Yesterday was the Private View of the 205th Annual Exhibition of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours.  You can view it
The exhibition is especially notable for being:
  • the first exhibition under the new President Rosa Sepple. Rosa is the first ever female President of the RI in the history of the organisation
  • absolutely packed with supporters at the Private View yesterday. The Gallery was filled from end to end for the speeches and the awards.
Rosa Sepple - the first ever WOMAN President of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours

There area number of events during the course of the exhibition.
Also at the end are details of two more exhibitions by the RI in West Sussex and Cardiff if you're unable to get to this one.

Below you'll find my review of the exhibition in general.

Tomorrow I'll

  • post a list of the award winners - with images and 
  • show you the work of some of the candidates for membership - with images of the excellent candidates' wall and some of the candidates.

But first here are the exhibition metrics for all those artists considering entering this competition.

Exhibition metrics - and the Open Entry

There are 389 paintings on the walls of all three galleries. 142 of the works (36%) are by 98 non-member artists (1.45 paintings each)

No. of artworks and artists

There are 389 artworks in the exhibition across the three galleriesThere are 
  • 247 artworks (63%) by 86 members; and 
  • 142 artworks (36%) by 98 non-members. This is a MAJOR improvement on the 25% of works from the open selected for exhibition in 2015.
  • The ratio of members' to open artworks hung is 64:36. This is an acceptable ratio for an open exhibition - with scope to improve still further. 
In terms of people hanging work in the exhibition, there are more open artists than members participating in the exhibition. The ratio of members to 'open' artists is 1:1.13 

Open Entry Success Rates

The open entry brought 1,090 entries from 489 artists. 142 artworks by 98 members were selected and hung in the exhibition.

In terms of artwork submitted via the Open Entry and exhibition success:
  • the average number of artworks submitted per artist was 2.23 
  • the average number of artworks hung per artist is 1.44 - even successful artists don't get all their artwork selected for hanging! 
  • 13% of the artwork was selected for the exhibition. This is a figure that artists need to bear in mind when submitting in future 
  • 20% of artists were successful in getting their art hung. This is a good percentage compared to many major art competitions. It also means that a number of those who were successful probably only submitted one "best work". 

Artworks per artist

  • Members: averaged 2.87 works hung. Full members can hang up to the six works (but not all do so) while more senior members tend to hang just one or a small number 
  • 'Open' artists: averaged 1.45 works hung each. 

No. of sales per class of artist

  • It's too early to say anything yet about sales but I may well be back and if I am I will do a count!


The exhibition is back in three galleries for the first time in a long time - and looks and feels all the better for it.

The West Gallery is mixed with predominantly members work on display.

"The Mall" side of the West Gallery
- with the watercolours by the Prince of Wales hanging at the entrance
The end wall of the West Gallery later in the PV
Two of the North Galleries are mixed with predominantly the artwork selected via the open submission alongside some displays by RI members.
North Gallery #1
North Gallery #2

The far North Gallery contains small works by RI members. This has become a popular room in recent times.

More North Galleries

The Threadneedle Space has a Candidates Wall - for those seeking full membership of the RI. Plus artworks by artists under the age of 30 who are eligible for The Leathersellers' Prize - of which more tomorrow. The artwork in the room is predominantly by artists selected via the open.

Young Artists and Candidates

Things I liked

  • I was very impressed by the standard of the open work. The exhibition had a very fresh feel about it - bringing some new perspectives on how watercolour can be used. The President emphasised that the selection panel had deliberated at length over the digital images submitted when making the selection.
  • I liked the very much better balance between members and those selected via the open both in terms of numbers and the mix re. the hang.
  • I looked around the gallery as the PV wound its way to the end - and realised that this was an exhibition which has responded well to my various injunctions over the years on how to frame for London - and sell a painting! (eg. see Do frames help to sell art?) The frames on the artwork are almost universally simple in terms of moulding and colour - they're either white, black, neutral or pale wood. There are just a very few metallic looking frames which I confess now tend to look rather old-fashioned to my eyes.
One wall in Small Works by members Gallery
  • There's also been a change in the Small Works Gallery, it's very clear that a number of members have realised the wisdom of submitting a good small work and make it available for a reasonable price.  (In marketing terms, this might euphemistically be called "the sprat to catch a mackerel". If you can get a collector to buy a small painting, the chances are they may well return at some point in the future for a larger painting at a higher price and/or recommend you to all their friends)
  • it was good to see some plants and flowers creeping into the exhibition. I have not a clue why some of the best watercolour painters I know - the botanical artists working in watercolour - do not typically submit their work to the open exhibitions of the two watercolour societies. 
A mix of works by artists selected via the Open Entry
  • It was really great to see lots of paintings look like they were painted with water! Ones where you could actually see the use of "proper watercolour techniques"! This is no small achievement in an era when acrylic seems to have taken over!
More collections of 'the same but different' objects by Lilias August
- I'm always intrigued as to what she'll come up with next
Four paintings by Colin Allbrook (top centre and bottom row)
  • Lots of individual paintings! It's difficult to single out however, artists whose work appealed this year (who I'm not discussing elsewhere!) are the 'same but different' collections of Lilias August, the unassuming paintings of the countryside by Colin Allbrook which has amazing control over colour and luminescent light, and how can you not like the work of John Yardley - who to my mind is the consummate "one hit and that's it" watercolour painter!  His painting of Venice in the snow was superb!

  • PLUS Meeting new artists, old friends and artists whose work I've previously commented on - plus readers of this blog! There were a couple of hours where all I did was meet people! I also don't think I've ever had an exhibition before where quite so many people came up to me and thanked me for this blog! I'm very happy to know that you like its content and the fact I'm honest about how I see things.
There were three Past Presidents exhibiting paintings on the wall. Sadly one of them, Andy Wood - died in November last year in his third year of Presidency (see R.I.P Andy Wood PRI, RBA (1947 - 2016) ) and we won't be seeing his work again after this exhibition - except on his website. I'll miss my chats with him about what changes he's introducing in the next year.  On the other hand, I'll be very interested to see how Rosa plans to move the RI on to greater things

I do know that her initial objectives as President are to:
  • raise the profile of the Society
  • find strong new members
  • promote the new fRIends of the RI
  • find a permanent home fo the archives; and 
  • publish a hardback book on the history of the RI with profiles of its current members
I suggested that maybe the RI might also like to become interested in what watercolour looks like on vellum!  Just a thought - it's very traditional and contemporary at the same time!

Watercolour RI: Now (new original watercolours)

Two more exhibitions by the members of the RI will be held in 2017 as follows:
  • May 13th - July 15th 2017 at Horsham Museum and Art Gallery in West Sussex (This is part of Horsham’s Festival of the Watercolour, a 2 month long celebration of the medium 
  • 12th October - 4th November 2017 at the Albany Gallery in Cardiff 

Tomorrow - more about the Award Winners and Candidates.

My reviews of RI exhibitions in the last 10 years

The purpose of this video isn't to give you an in-depth view of all the paintings so much as to give you:
  • an idea of the overall size of the exhibition
  • a notion of how big the paintings are that get selected via the open entry
  • a view of the paintings that were selected this year
This exhibition has always been very popular with the provincial art societies whose members arrive in droves - on coaches!
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