Eileen Cooper RA
The art market has not been immune to the world's financial worries. This is a fact that, as a gallery owner for the past two years, I have become acutely aware. However, not all is gloom and doom. Well-executed, well-priced work will sell, even in these times. A skilfully-publicised show, in a good location, with committed supporters and a steady passing trade is vital. That is exactly what the ING Discerning Eye annual exhibition at the Mall Galleries offers its artists.
Over the nineteen years the exhibition has been running, around 50,000 works have passed through the open submission process and more than £1,000,000 worth of sales achieved. This during the good and the bad times. Even last year's exhibition did much better than expected.
The ING Discerning Eye has built an enviable reputation in the art world. The quality of the selectors has been extremely high, the chosen work of excellent quality. Curators and gallery owners know this and visit the exhibition to spot new talent that can be promoted in their own shows. The ING Discerning Eye enjoys Royal patronage - The Prince of Wales has been both a selector and an exhibitor and regularly visits the show. Our sponsors - ING Commercial Banking - have long been committed to supporting the charity and the bank now boasts a collection of ING prize-winning works from 1999. These are on permanent display in their City of London offices.
Without this support the ING Discerning Eye would not be the success it is. One man who has played an important part in this achievement is Mall Galleries manager John Deston. As someone who has cast his eye over the many thousands of works of art that pass through the gallery he is well qualified to serve as one of this year's selectors. I'd like to thank him and the other selectors for their enthusiast support of the charity. Thanks, of course, must go again to ING for their continued backing. Without their financial commitment a great number of talented artists would not have had the opportunity to exhibit - and sell - at a prestigious exhibition.
I am sure that, whatever the financial climate, the 2011 ING Discerning Eye exhibition will be a resounding success.
Welcome to the 2011 ING Discerning Eye Exhibition. In some ways the past year has been one of consolidation and reflection on the progress we have made in recent years. At the end of the ING Private View evening this time last year, we were adding up the sales and realised that on the night we had sold only one third of the value of works we had sold on the corresponding evening the year before. Admittedly we had recorded our largest ever sales in 2009 but nevertheless this initial sales figure was worrying, as historically first night sales account for about 75 to 80% of the total sales in any one year. We were looking at not covering the costs of the exhibition!
Fortunately over the following two weeks further works were sold and by the end of the exhibition we had unusually doubled the takings of the first night and so did cover the cost of the exhibition. When we look back, this was a great achievement given the financial climate. More importantly, we would have been delighted with the total value of works sold only a few years earlier. Our expectations had grown but so had our cost base, largely due to the increased number of bursaries, acquisitions and prizes we now fund from the Discerning Eye's own resources. This all amounts to progress and the sale of more works for the artists we represent.
I am already on record saying how important our sponsor, ING, is to this progress, so it was very satisfying to us that ING's support of Discerning Eye was recognised by others twice earlier this year. First, a few months ago I was invited by Adrian Simpson of ING to sit with him on a panel at a Communicate Magazine corporate sponsorship seminar where three corporate sponsors and three recipient organisations were questioned by an audience of corporate communications experts who then had to decide which sponsor went with which recipient organisation. This offered a fascinating insight into how important it is for the match to be right for both parties but also showed in which high esteem our sponsorship relationship is held as the other participants were The Young Vic Theatre and Jazz FM.
A short while after that event, we were guests at the Corporate Philanthropy Awards where ING/DE picked up two awards, one for Best Arts Related Sponsorship and another for Best Community Involvement. Our congratulations go to ING for this well deserved recognition.
Enjoy the 2011 exhibition and as an antidote to the tough times we live in, why not cheer yourself up by buying a work of art that will bring you years of pleasure when you get it home and at the same time lift the spirits of an artist (or artists) who sometimes need to be reminded that their work contributes and adds value to our everyday existence.
The 2011 exhibition includes 614 works by 282 artists
62% of the artists and 43% of the works were selected from the open submission.
ING is delighted to be sponsoring the ING Discerning Eye Exhibition once again in 2011.
Our partnership with The Discerning Eye Exhibition dates back to 1999 and we are very happy to be involved in the showcasing of a great diversity of new works by talented artists. Over the years of collaboration the Discerning Eye charity has grown and through this annual exhibition continues to fire the imaginations of artists – both famous and unknown - to compete for a series of prizes and to bring their work to a wider audience. Earlier this year, ING's collaboration with The Discerning Eye was recognised at Communicate Magazine's Corporate Engagement Awards and we were very pleased to receive an award for 'Best Arts-Centred Corporate Sponsorship Activity' and another for 'Best Community Involvement in Sponsorship activity'. Such recognition is highly appreciated by those who work so hard to make the partnership work.
Art is an essential part of ING's corporate identity. In ING's offices worldwide art is displayed in corridors, meeting rooms and restaurants. We look forward each year to choosing the winner of the ING Purchase Prize and adding it to a collection which stimulates and inspires ING's employees and those visiting our offices. ING UK’s collection is in fact one of the finest corporate art collections in the country, containing works by artists such as LS Lowry and Stanley Spencer. ING's involvement with The Discerning Eye has encouraged us to further facilitate the engagement of ING staff with the visual arts and many of our staff look forward eagerly each year to attending The Discerning Eye Friends and Members private view. A staff art competition has been run in recent years culminating in an exhibition made up of works created by the skilled amateur artists among our workforce. The best of these (as chosen by our staff) have their work entered in the open submission for The Discerning Eye Exhibition to take their chances against talented artists from all over the UK.
Based on our own experience as a company, we are well aware of the profound effect that art can have in humanising an environment. For this reason we have this year initiated a new prize to be chosen by our staff in conjunction with Paintings in Hospitals, a registered charity with a mission to relieve sickness, anxiety and stress through the provision of art in hospitals, hospices and other healthcare facilities. The ING Staff Purchase Prize will be donated to Paintings in Hospitals for their picture loan collection. We look forward to following the winning painting through to its destination in a healthcare environment.
ING thanks the selectors, the artists, The Discerning Eye and the Parker Harris Partnership for all their efforts in preparing for the exhibition. All that remains is for me to wish the ING Discerning Eye 2011 Exhibition every success.
CEO, ING Commercial Banking UK, Ireland and Middle East
ING is a global financial institution of Dutch origin, offering banking, investments, life insurance and retirement services to meet the needs of a broad customer base. ING Commercial Banking is responsible for providing a range of services to ING's corporate and institutional client base. In the UK, ING also provides retail banking services through ING Direct.
Discerning Eye Drawing Bursary 2011
The Discerning Eye Drawing Bursary was launched in 2005 to provide an opportunity for artists to extend their practice by offering the financial support of a £1000 bursary. Free to enter and open to any artist resident in the UK, artists are annually invited to submit up to three images and a short written proposal that demonstrates how the bursary will benefit their current practice. From this open submission up to six artists are shortlisted and invited to exhibit up to three works each at the annual ING Discerning Exhibition. The winning artist receives £1,000 and each runner up receives £100. The announcement of the winner will be made at the Artists' Private View on the 10th November 2011.
Our grateful thanks go to each of the Discerning Eye Educational Advisory Board, particularly for their time and good judgement: Tom Coates PPNEAC, Anita Klein PPRE, James Lloyd and Nicholas Usherwood.
Selector Profile: Eileen Cooper RA
I have a passion for works on paper, and this guided me in making my selection for this years Discerning Eye Exhibition.
The individuals included are very varied, some are emerging artists, some well established and others who perhaps have not yet had the recognition that they deserve.
However, mark making on paper is central to the practice of these artists. Printmaking, both traditional and digital plays a big part, as do drawings and watercolours.
I hope you enjoy my selection.
It was a both a privilege and great fun to be part of the selection process, which was simultaneously thoughtful, serious and sometimes mischievous.
Selector Profile: Lisa Wright
Scale and the appropriateness of scale for an artist is paramount. When this is right and all the other elements - medium and handling; content and colour - are attuned, a piece of work can come alive.
Particularly when working on a small scale, this alchemy can produce little -jewels- of art and this is what I delighted in finding. From more than 2500 pieces, I have chosen works that have a clear ‘visual voice’ and though the selection was both instinctive and eclectic, I feel they will -sing- with each other in the exhibition.
Being a selector was rather like being let loose in the sweetie shop and that feeling remained throughout the whole process.
I hope you will enjoy the engaging and contrasting nature of the works I have chosen.
Selector Profile: Brian Sewell
I was holding Michael Reynolds' hand, as it were, when in 1990 the Discerning Eye was born like Athena from the head of Zeus. It was then his view that art in all its forms had become in scale overblown and bloated, and in its distension had so diluted meaning as to become meaningless - the warehouse art of corporate collections in vast premises, much fostered by the various Tates and Biennales. Physically far too large for subtlety, painting and sculpture were everywhere treading the paths of Facism and Communism, their message no longer political (and certainly not aesthetic) but devoted solely to the promotion of the artist - witness Gormley’s gauche angel and Kapoor's collapsing Olympic helter-skelter. The intention of the Discerning Eye was to urge artists to steer away from the gigantic art of immediate but fleeting impact, and return to works of art that can be held in the hand or propped on the knee to contemplate; in the two decades since its foundation, that purpose has become ever more urgent.
In my selection, I have tried to honour Michael's intentions and prove that art in small is every bit as great as art in its gigantic. For the most part I have chosen works in which the idea is paramount, supported by the characteristic tools and values of ancestral art - observation and skill with an aesthetic charge; Jan van Eyck, Adam Elsheimer and Samuel Palmer serve well as exemplars. I admit that in some of my choices I have been seduced by youthful promise and fond affection for old familiars; that my sensual nature has been touched by the facture of paint, by the strong warp and weft of the brush and, as often, by its ethereal delicacy - touched by colour too; that my tactile sense has been roused by sculpture of which, were I blind, I would be well informed by touch alone; and I have been amused and pleased by wit. Yet some of my chosen works are austere and cerebral, reduced to perfection. Michael, himself a considerable painter (now all but forgotten) was so much a presence at my shoulder on Judgement Day that these choices are as much his as mine.
Selector Profile: Ossian Ward
It might seem wilfully capricious to have designated a preordained theme for an exhibition before you've even seen any of the work, but that's exactly what I have done. I had long wanted to discover whether there still existed as strong a seam of British landscape art being made in this country as there ever was, given that this genre has not been deemed fashionable since the late 1960s. Thankfully, looking at the hundreds of works submitted for selection to the Discerning Eye exhibition, it seems my suspicions were well founded.
Our whole history of art is built on the foundations of Turner, Constable, Blake, Palmer and goes back further to the background depictions of nature in the illuminated manuscripts of artist-craftsmen such as Master Hugo. But the enduring question of whether this kind of art could survive into the digital age and compete with the morass of popular media imagery is one of the reasons I chose to focus on the contemporary landscape for my selection - the other is much more personal.
I owe all my interest in art to my father who, in turn, joins the long line of British landscape painters to have been influenced by the past masters. By including my father's abstracted views of fields and trees alongside some of his colleagues and a number picked fresh from the next generation of artists, I had hoped to form a clearer view of the current state of landscapism. In every sense, this should be a revelation - an opportunity to see nature and our urban surroundings anew.
The beauty of this open submission show is that not only do all the judges have to pick separately and wrangle over pieces if more than one of us is keen on something, but it allows for such differing tastes and aesthetic patterns to emerge. This is not meant to be a consensus, but a personal choice, something I hold true to when writing about what I see every day in my job as an art critic. After all, if the appreciation of art were not subjective but objective, then we would live in a world governed by bland images agreed by committee (perhaps even in premeditated styles, sight unseen, like some visual tyranny). And then there would be no place for the visionaries that remake our environment through their own discerning eyes.
Selector Profile: John Deston
For over the twenty years the Discerning Eye exhibition - which was founded here at the Federation of British Artists - has been hosted by the Mall Galleries, recognised as a major venue for the contemporary figurative art movement.
During this time over 120 distinguished selectors, comprised of artists, collectors and critics has chosen from what must be over 75,000 works, whilst I have looked on and marvelled at the diverse and interesting artwork that has been displayed here.
So you may imagine the jubilation that followed when I was asked by the Discerning Eye's Chairman to be a selector for the 2011 exhibition. When, in the calm light of day, I realised the daunting task of choosing just a hundred works from so many submissions, my jubilation soon turned to fear and concern over the art that I would not be able to select!
After twenty-five years of working at the Mall Galleries, I have built a modest collection of paintings by artists that have passed through our galleries. This is the starting point for my selection for the Discerning Eye; I have invited artists whose works I have admired and enjoyed over that time, a selection that has been enhanced and added to from the fabulously varied open submission.
I hope my selection will not disappoint.
Selector Profile: John Pluthero
I headed to the viewing of the open submission with relatively few works pre-selected. My main passion, Abstraction – being an arena where 'size matters' - had left me with plenty of space to fill in the show. And I was excited to let myself respond in as honest and straightforward a way as possible, to what I saw - no prejudices, no 'curatorial stance'.
Some pieces were clearly a shoe-in, others equally clearly a shoeout. But my heart went out to those whose work was in the 'close but no cigar' category.
It was an uplifting experience, for two reasons. First, my coselectors were knowledgeable, personable and warm hearted in their approach. Second, it made me realise how deep and wide runs the practice of art making. A large hinterland of practitioners crafting and refining, proud of their output and resolved in their passion. You cannot help but feel enriched by such an experience. I hope the resulting show conveys some shard of that warm feeling.