Whilst our main focus continues to be our annual exhibition each November, in recent years we have embarked on a broadening of our activities in support of our declared aim to encourage a wider understanding and appreciation of the visual arts.
The process began in 2001 with the opportunity to place an 'artist in residence' at the UK headquarters of our exhibition sponsor - ING Group. The artist Johnny Jonastook up the challenge of capturing scenes that reflected the atmosphere of the workplace.
2002 was a busy year. In the spring we launched the Discerning Eye newsletter, which is dispatched to all our Friends and Members. It is usually produced twice a year and reports widely on DE events and activities.
We also created our first bursary. The DE educational advisory board (as it was then known) gave this to Jonathan Edgar, a student at The Frink School of Figurative Sculpture.
During the summer of 2002 we organised two special exhibitions and sales under the banner 'Exhibiting For Mutual Benefit, Opportunities For Inspiring Artists and Discerning Collectors'. These were made possible by the sponsorship of the ING Group and a grant from Arts & Business, a charity organisation set up in 1976 promoting a wide range of partnerships between businesses and the arts. Work on the Discerning Eye website was also started in 2002.
In 2003 we awarded a second bursary, this time via the Prince's Drawing School and organized an inspirational trip to the Mall Galleries for children and their parents from Sure Start, Battersea (a government programme supporting families, particularly those from disadvantaged areas).
2004 saw another collaboration with ING on the 'Platform 100' project.
In 2005, with an unprecedented fourth consecutive award from Arts & Business, came the DE/ING Drawing School project. ING staff in London were given a wonderful opportunity to engage with the visual arts and artists in a practical and creative way by developing their drawing skills.
The DE 2005 Bursary was awarded to Joan Gabie for a selection of beautiful drawings from her “China workbook”. Since 2006 the Bursary has continued to be awarded each year but became focused on drawing. Details of all our past bursaries, including images of the works presented, can be found in our bursary section.
In 2008 the Discerning Eye decided to start its own art collection with a view to making works available for loan to galleries and organisations that might not otherwise be able to mount shows. It would also benefit the artists by providing them with a broader audience. Brian Sewell selected the first work at the 2008 exhibition and it has grown through annual purchase prizes and kind donations in the years since.
2008 was also the year that the website was considerably expanded to include images of every work shown at the DE exhibition. Continuing and extending this in subsequent years, the website exhibition archive includes transcribed reproductions of all the past catalogues, with full sets of images for every year since 2008, and additional information - such as prizewinners - which was not available at the time of publication of the original catalogues.
In 2015 we made our first sortie to The Temple Church in London where we mounted an exhibition of the works added to our own collection since 2008. This was made possible by the re-opening of the triforium of the church after many long years of disuse. It was a wonderful and unique space for our exhibition and so we used it again in 2016 and 2017.
2016 marked the silver jubilee of our main exhibition. To celebrate that milestone we invited past prizewinners to show works in a special exhibition, which was held in the same unique venue as our Collection exhibition last year - the triforium of the Temple Church in London. The exhibition was open during October and included nearly fifty works from past prizewinners.
In 2017 we organised our third exhibition at Temple Church, this time for past winners of our annual drawing bursary. The exhibition was once again held during October and the opening evening was enjoyed to the accompaniment of a capellasinging by Cantanti Camerati, a choral group led by Stephen Gregson which counts Richard Moxon - one of our directors - as a member. You can browse the works shown in this exhibition on our Bursary Prizewinners' Exhibition page.
Our first international collaboration was arranged after our annual exhibition in 2019. Twenty-three artists who had exhibited at the DE exhibition in London in November were invited to show works at the C24 gallery in the heart of Manhattan.
A few months later, in January 2020, the exhibition in New York was launched, entitled “The Seventh View”. Our chief executive was interviewed by the gallery and Anthony Lester and his wife Elizabeth Meek visited the show.
Whilst that exhibition got under way, so did the coronavirus pandemic. Our exhibition couldn't be held at The Mall Galleries, or indeed in any gallery, as restrictions were imposed to cope with the virus.
So instead we arranged for a wholly 'virtual' exhibition: images of works were submitted electronically, the selectors worked remotely to make their choices, then a special 'online gallery' was created so that viewers could see the images and buy the works. The number of works submitted was much higher than usual as artists seized the opportunity to show and sell their work in uniquely difficult times.