Tom Coates RP RBA RWS PS NEAC
The Lady Patten
A S Byatt
The Discerning Eye is an unusual organisation - if organisation is not too formal a description of what is, in essence, an annual art exhibition. Although this is my second year as Chairman, I confess that I have only just begun to grasp the true nature of the event itself, and of the many and varied activities surrounding it.
The Discerning Eye is an educational charity, established some ten years ago, to encourage a wider understanding and appreciation of the visual arts, and to stimulate debate about the place and purpose of art in our society, and the contribution each one of us can make to its development. The exhibition offers what I believe to be a unique opportunity for people to look at - and purchase - art work selected both from open submissions, and also representing the personal choice of the artists, art critics and collectors who make up our distinguished panel of selectors. We are grateful for the judgement and commitment demonstrated by this year's panel. You can read about their views elsewhere in the catalogue.
I cannot end this brief foreword without giving my thanks to the many other people whose hard work throughout the year, contributes so much to the success of The Discerning Eye. To our Chief Executive Tony Humphreys who calmly and efficiently co-ordinates the work. To the directors and staff of Parker Harris, for their unfailing professionalism and enthusiasm. To the Mall Galleries for their skilled support.
The exhibition you will have the pleasure of viewing simply would not be possible without the financial support of Charterhouse Securities, and the welcome contribution from Arts & Business.
John Caine MBE Chairman
Starting a collection
A collection is a highly personal affair, to be enjoyed in private between oneself and one's initial enthusiasms and growing interests, with the gradual acquisition of intimate and particular knowledge giving an added and lasting savour. There are, nevertheless, a number of general rules to keep in mind, lest, like all such things, it end in tears.
The first, and if it comes down to an absolute choice, the only rule, is simple:
Rule 1 - NEVER collect for investment. This is not at all the same thing as having an eye for a good thing or snapping up a bargain when one sees one. The point, rather, is that it is the object that should be sought and cherished, not any potential profit. And the great fun and paradox of collecting is that what you buy for love so often turns itself, in time, at a handsome if purely notional profit - for as a true collector you would never sell - would you? No: of course not.
So, rule la - cast your bread upon the waters: sell off, if you must, but only to improve, refine and expand upon what you have: remember, your investment may go down as well as up.
Rule 2, then - NEVER buy what you do not actively like and want, and wish to live with. You will inevitably make mistakes, through ignorance, over-enthusiasm, that extra glass of wine at the private view, or have them revealed indeed through your own growing discretion and discernment, but these can always be corrected - see la above.
Rule 3 - study your subject, and keep a clear head.
Rule 4 - keep some sensible limits in mind, of both the scope of the collection as such, and of the money at hand to serve it. But what you can afford.
BUT - rule 4a - keep them flexible. It is not a question of being improvident. Don't re-mortgage the house. But long experience tells us what we regret most as collectors are not our mistakes as such so much as the treasures we let slip away, for being too careful, for not being prepared to spend that little bit more, for not having had that extra glass at the private view.
AND rule 4b - let one thing lead to another, for collecting is not necessarily a business of merely completing the set, and things of all kinds may sit happily and stimulatingly together, so long as the quality is there. As much as it is anything, to collect is to discover.
PS - should you wish to turn yourself into a dealer, that is quite another thing and a different temperament altogether.
Charterhouse Securities is one of the UK's leading institutional stockbrokers, delivering a specialist service, encompassing high quality research, respected sales and dealing teams and market-making in selected stocks. Our aim is to become the securities house of choice when UK, European and North American institutional investors deal on the London markets.
We also offer a growing, respected corporate broking function that meets the key requirements of corporate clients including equity underwriting and fund raising, sponsoring flotations, full secondary market support and providing financial advice. We operate as a relationship-based team, specialising in servicing mid-sized corporate clients.
As part of the CCF Charterhouse group, a subsidiary of the leading French bank, CCF, we are in a unique position of being able to work alongside one of France's most respected and well-established stockbroking firms, CCF Securities. This gives us the opportunity to provide, where appropriate, joint research product on sectors and companies that benefit from a wider European view.
Charterhouse Securities is very pleased to sponsor the Discerning Eye Exhibition. As one of the most important independent exhibitions in the UK, we very much appreciate the importance of its commitment to individuality and excellence - attributes that we try to bring to our business at all times.
Selector Profile: Tom Coates
It was a pleasure to work with my fellow selectors in the judging of the Discerning Eye. My list of invited guests should be balanced with the support of the artists who sent their work in.
I have no need to justify myself in the choice of works. I felt strongly in the importance of an exciting presentation of colour, style, subjects and abstract sensitivity.
My choice is an iceberg of my tastes - only the tip shows. I only wish I could have more - alas space.
Selector Profile: Justin Mortimer
My artists aren't trendy.
I'm not attempting a group show of 'names to watch'. I'll leave that to the lottery of the art scene.
Nor am I interested in choosing artists who think they've got it (whatever 'it' may be). That would be boring. No bombasts allowed either.
The artists showing here are what it's all about; steadily getting on with it, with a quirky wit and clarity as compelling and idiosyncratic as they are as people.
Selector Profile: Lionel Blair
I am very honoured to have been asked to make a selection for The Discerning Eye.
In all cases I feel I have chosen artists whose work I would enjoy living with in my home.
For me, making this selection renewed my interest and delighted my own discerning eye.
Selector Profile: The Lady Patten
Short of being allowed to choose liberally from the products of the sponsor, Charterhouse Securities, there can be few pleasures greater than selecting art ad lib!
Making choices for the Discerning Eye exhibition has been a pleasure and a prejudice buster. Despite an innate disinclination toward the abstract and the aggressively modern, I found that a little of both were to be hung on my fantasy walls.
Contemporary sculpture I was suspicious of, but greatly enjoyed selecting pieces from the crazed to the conventional. Figurative painting has always been my strong preference; I am not sure that we own a single painting without a person in it. Nonetheless, seascapes, landscapes and a still life have all slipped under the wire of this exhibition which has opened my eyes to their potential charm - when well-executed.
I always like to think that any artist can draw an elbow, if challenged. Like an ungrammatical book or wrong notes in a symphony, art without technique grates. I hope that you will not spot any sloppy elbows or otherwise anatomically incorrect pieces here.
Selector Profile: A S Byatt
The artists I have invited work in various mediums - paint paper, metal, glass and other materials. I admire them for different reasons, but all have what I think of as 'wit' - not a desire to shock, but something analogous to the seventeenth-century passion for making new connections.
They all look hard at things and at their materials-sometimes at ideas too - and then make something unexpected after looking. I also like artists who are adventurous with (often, not always) unEnglish colours. It is very exciting to be able to see work by all of them in one place.
Selector Profile: Charlotte Mullins
When asked to be a selector for the Discerning Eye, I was surprised. My taste is not traditional, and the Discerning Eye has often been perceived to be so. I am a lover of ambitious installations, photographs, huge abstract canvases, public sculpture, none of which fit the parameters of this show. But selecting smaller works has been a challenge and surprisingly rewarding.
The calm simplicity of Jane Brennan's domestic subjects - beads, birds, flowers compel you to look again at things in your home and garden. Max Doig revels in paint to depict the fabric of life, while Simon Morley uses it conceptually to paint text fragments. Dexter Dalwood's collages are intricate constructions of his own reality of places he has never seen. Jessica Lack works to reclaim spaces she feels she has lost while Emma Smith's analyses the traces of existence we leave behind - in the bath, on buildings, in nightclubs.
Part of my selection came from open submission, and I was impressed by the number of high-quality works seen - art is such a personal thing that artists must be of a strong disposition to submit their work to the scrutiny of six selectors. So it's a heady mix of materials, methods and motives: I hope it reflects the eclecticism and dynamism of contemporary art today.