In the ten years since I was appointed Chairman of the Discerning Eye the charity has gone from strength to strength. It has seen significant change and development and now stands as one of the UK's leading organisations devoted to promoting the visual arts.
The driving force behind this advance has been Chief Executive Tony Humphreys. His vision and commitment has firmly planted the Discerning Eye on the arts map. Tony, along with his team, who first became involved with the charity more than twenty years ago, have worked not only to uphold the original concept of the founders but, as Tony says, move with the times.
And so it is worth recording some of the highlights of the past decade.
One significant move forward was the launch of the Discerning Eye Collection. Works - now numbering around fifty - by artists who have exhibited with the Discerning Eye are now available for exhibition around the country. The inaugural show of the Collection was held in 2015 in the Triforum, a wonderful space high above the Temple Church in London. The Discerning Eye's association with the Temple Church has led to further exhibitions featuring Discerning Eye artists - Discerning Eye prize winners last year and a special exhibition featuring a selection of work produced by former Drawing Bursary finalists in October this year. Special thanks are due to Ian Mayes QC, Chairman of the Temple Church, whose vision opened up this space to exhibit art.
Another important development was the setting up of The Founder's Prize in honour of artist Michael Reynolds. The Prize was part-funded by Michael's good friend, the critic Brian Sewell. Both Michael and Brian passed away in the past decade and are remembered by the annual Founder's Prize.
The addition of this annual prize has swelled the total amount of prize money on offer to artists who are selected to hang their work at the annual Discerning Eye Exhibition.
In thanking Tony for his guidance over the last ten years I must also thank his team: Mary Dodwell for editing the Newsletter and running the Friends and members scheme; Liam Donnelly for his outstanding work on our website; all of the selectors who have given up their time to make each show a great success; Parker Harris, our exhibition organisers for faultless planning and execution; the Mall Galleries for making space available for such a good cause; and, of course, our generous sponsors ING Wholesale Banking, without whom the annual Discerning Eye exhibition would not take place.
I am delighted to have the opportunity to put into writing my thanks to Tony and all those who support us.
After the excitement of last year's 25th Exhibition and related activities, we now move into a new era. The Chairman in his Statement refers to the past ten years of his tenure and some of the key people who have left us - among them, Founder Michael Reynolds and art critic Brian Sewell.
One other person who has recently departed but, I am pleased to say only to take up a new role in New York City, is Gerald Walker, former Head of UK, Ireland & Middle East, ING Wholesale Banking. For many years, Gerald contributed an introduction to the exhibition catalogue on behalf of our sponsor, so I felt that we needed to give him a big thank you from everybody at Discerning Eye, in this, the first catalogue after his departure.
Always a keen supporter of the Discerning Eye Exhibition, he is a collector himself and was brave enough to take on the role of selector back in 2012. I am pleased to say that one of the works he selected still sits proudly on the wall of our sitting room! At the time of writing, we do not know who will be taking over from Gerald, but we extend a warm welcome ahead of that appointment being made.
In the meantime, we have been left in the very capable and knowledgeable hands of both Stephen Richards, Chief of Staff for the ING UK Region and Chair of the Art and Archive Committee, UK, and Martha McKenzie-Minifie, Head of the UK Corporate Communications department
We have recently started looking at what we can do to keep the Discerning Eye fresh and relevant without deviating from its original principles. In this respect, Martha has been particularly generous in sharing her experience of modern methods of communications which I am sure will prove valuable as we move forward.
Back to this year's exhibition. I would like to extend my usual thanks to all the artists and of course selectors for their participation. In particular, I would like to thank Ellen Bertrams, Curator of the ING Collection, who is based in Holland so has slightly further to travel than everybody else in order to be part of the 2017 exhibition!
Finally, a note on our relationship with Holland, which continues in unexpected ways. Those of you who knew our founder Michael Reynolds will know that in 1997 he found his way to Groningen in the north of Holland, where in 1999 he set up a studio and worked until his death in 2008. During this period, supported by the Fillip Foundation, established by his friends Peter and Anne Marie Borsboom in 2000, Michael produced some of his best work.
Having left instruction in his will that the Fillip Foundation be responsible for making sure that his work remained accessible to a wider public, the Foundation distributed his works to collections in the UK, Italy and the Netherlands. They donated two works to the Discerning Eye Collection and in 2010 gave a number to the Museum De Buitenplaats, Eelde, northern Holland. Earlier this year the Museum gave Michael's works a solo show, entitled 'Michael Reynolds: An Englishman Abroad'. Unfortunately, I heard about it too late to attend, but they produced a fine catalogue of the exhibition which they sent on to me. It is a wonderful reminder of the man and his work and something I know he would have been very proud of (after no doubt complaining about some small detail or other!) It is also a reminder that art can, and usually does, long outlive the artist.
Enjoy the Exhibition.
The 2017 exhibition comprised 465 works by 237 artists. 75% of the artists and 55% of the works are from the open submission. Painting and drawing make up over 60% of the works, mixed media and sculpture about 15%, printmaking a further 8%, and photography about 5% this year.
ING Małgorzata Kołakowska introduces the 2017 Exhibition
ING is delighted to sponsor the ING Discerning Eye once again in 2017, for the 19th year.
At ING, culture has always been key to our clients and employees. Through access to our own art collection and sponsorships such as the ING Discerning Eye, we aim to make art and culture accessible to a broad audience. This is closely aligned to the Discerning Eye charity's own goals of encouraging a wider understanding and appreciation of the visual arts and of stimulating debate about the place and purpose of art in our society.
Moreover, in our Wholesale Banking business, we believe true value comes from being able to empower our clients to embrace innovation and drive their businesses forward. We do this by adding value through the one thing that can really stand us apart - people - their commitment, creativity, shared responsibility, expertise, insight and versatility. We empower through the good work ethic, social intelligence and creativity of our thousands of colleagues in 40 countries around the world.
In our ING UK art collection, the partnership with the Discerning Eye has a very special place. Through the ING Purchase Prize, we have added 18 Discerning Eye works to the collection - one for every year of the relationship to date. Last year's Purchase Prize was Surge Tide, Saligo Bay by Chris Bushe, which is admired for the bold and expressive application of paint that captures the emotion of the Scottish landscape.
We have also brought a selection of works from this year's ING Discerning Eye Exhibition into our new building at 8-10 Moorgate in the heart of the City of London - proudly showcasing our partnership and opening the works up to a broader audience. Around 5 to 10 pieces from each of the six selectors have been curated on dedicated panels in our client space, creating a stimulating and inspiring place for colleagues and clients to do business.
ING thanks the selectors, the artists, the Discerning Eye and the Parker Harris Partnership for all their efforts in preparing for the exhibition.
Please join me in wishing the ING Discerning Eye Exhibition 2017 every success.
ING Global Head of Wholesale Banking Network
ING is a global financial institution with a strong European base, offering banking services through its operating company ING Bank. The purpose of ING Bank is empowering people to stay a step ahead in life and in business. ING Bank's more than 51,000 employees offer retail and wholesale banking services to customers in over 40 countries. Sustainability forms an integral part of ING's corporate strategy, which is evidenced by ING Group shares being included in the FTSE4Good index and in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index.
Selector Profile: Nicola Coleby
I was delighted to be invited to be a selector for the ING Discerning Eye Exhibition, as well as being – initially – slightly daunted! Working in a public gallery, it's rare both to be given a carte blanche when curating an exhibition and to be invited to select artworks with no preconditions. Being able to choose work by artists I admire soon became a compelling and enjoyable process: I chose pieces by artists I have worked with or known for a long time. At first I was struck by how many women artists I had chosen, and how much of the work was figurative or used materials in a transformative way. As I made the selection and began to get a sense of how the works might fit together I also realised that there are glimpses of humour and the surreal across much of the work. It was not something I was previously conscious of being drawn to, and has made the process all the more fascinating.
It was hugely enjoyable to spend a day with the other selectors choosing from over 2,000 works. In other open submission exhibitions, I've been part of a panel choosing work together to create one exhibition. Here, an impressively efficient team of people brought in the work and each of us had to be quick to say if we wanted a piece before someone else laid claim to it. It was fascinating to see how quickly we got a sense of each selector's 'eye', and there were many occasions when we knew instinctively that one person would go for a particular piece. It was a wonderful opportunity to see a great variety of [new] work by unknown artists, as well as a privilege to work with the other selectors. Testimony to the quality of the work submitted is that we all chose more than we had space for, and had to make hard decisions at the end of the day.
I hope that the work in the selection I've made will surprise and delight viewers as much as it has me. I'd like to thank all the artists I invited who responded to my request to submit with such enthusiasm, as well as those artists I've yet to meet, whose work in the open submission drew my eye. And I'd like to thank all those involved in running the Exhibition for the opportunity to take part in creating what I'm sure will be an exciting show as well as for making it such an engaging process.
Selector Profile: Simon Tait
There has never been a more vibrant time for visual art, and the Discerning Eye is a unique monitor of what is being accomplished, both from the artists the selectors invite and from the open submission. For 30 years I have been looking at art both as a reporter, writing news stories that highlight aspects of the creative process but can seldom break the surface, and as a critic in a practice that should be a constructive one as well as commentary, and I'm enjoying it more than ever. Artists give us our culture, and culture is what makes humankind worthwhile.
The artists I have asked are all painters, but they include one of the finest painters of miniatures in the country, an inventive portraitist, a lino-cutter whose achievements defy analysis, a landscape painter with the power to shock, another whose grasp of texture is uncanny, a figurative painter who found a new path after a life change and a pop artist who has done the impossible to move the genre on. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
But selecting from open submission can be painful, because most have to be rejected and we the selectors know the enormous effort that has gone into each piece and the hopes that ride on them: it is regrettable, then that some excellent work is not here. The standard is at least as high as it always is, and I hope that by picking what we have, we have made as good an exhibition for you as ever.
Selector Profile: Elmo Hood
For me this entire process has been very interesting and enjoyable. When I was first asked if I would consider participating as a selector, I was both humbled and flattered.
I am a self-taught artist who started off in street art before gradually moving into the contemporary art world, due to my habit of cutting up and setting fire to playing cards which, fortunately for me, became popular on social media. I thought to myself: 'how am I qualified enough to pass judgement on another artist's work?'
However, after some thought, I figured that maybe my years of creating and criticising my own pieces gave me sufficient experience. I realised that this was an opportunity to help recognise some of the phenomenal talent we have in this country and give a handful of artists a platform from which to be seen.
As part of my role I was asked to invite artists who are friends of mine or whose work I admire to contribute a work or works to the Exhibition - this was something that made me extremely happy! My invited artists all have a combination of immeasurable skill, combined with a distinct style which I feel is something that is very important. The majority of these pieces I have not seen in advance, so I will share in much of the surprise and amazement that I feel many of you will experience when you view them.
The open selection was an inspiring and competitive experience. We viewed over two thousand paintings and sculptures, which meant that we only had a few seconds to make a decision on each. I felt a level of sadness at the sheer amount of work we had to say no to. The majority of these decisions were not due to a lack of technical skill displayed by the artists; some pieces were simply more captivating than others and that’s what it came down to for me. The pieces I have chosen are either powerful, witty or thought-provoking and this is what I feel art should be.
“No rain, no flowers.”
Selector Profile: Anne Magill
I was excited to accept ING's generous offer of curating the ING Discerning Eye Exhibition and it has been a pleasure to take part.
On selecting I relied on gut instinct when assessing the quality of a piece: whether it has an interesting subject, a striking composition, an accomplished technique; whether it has anything to 'say', or whether it simply appealed to me!
The sheer volume of entries was really quite something to behold. On the day the atmosphere was charged: we sat in excited anticipation of being surprised, impressed, enchanted, amused, challenged and inspired by the entries. And we were - often! Many individual pieces were chosen by several of the panel, which added a further frisson to the selection process and, if at times frustrating, the judging was a hugely enjoyable, co-operative and good-natured experience.
I am naturally drawn towards work that has a narrative, is figurative and is about connections, as I am drawn to artists who display an honesty in their work. The artists that I've invited to show are those whose work I admire.
I hope that you enjoy my selection and the Exhibition
Selector Profile: Ellen Bertrams
After years of visiting art fairs, galleries, artists' studios, exhibitions and graduation exhibitions at art academies, it is not surprising that the eye undergoes some sort of visual training. When asked as a selector for the ING Discerning Eye Exhibition, this visual training came in very handy. How to choose 100 artworks from some 2000 sent in artworks that you've only seen for a mere couple of seconds? Without knowing the artist, the oeuvre or the context of the work I had to solely trust my eyes and instinct in determining whether an artwork had that special X-factor or not. It was almost like swiping through a dating app (not that I have any personal experience with that) and instantly deciding: like or dislike.
Next to technical skill I was looking for those artworks that triggered a sense of curiosity and excitement. Did it display something intriguing and new? Some of the artworks I selected instantly put a smile on my face or were simply beautiful. I guess in some way the artwork had to give some form of energy. It was really interesting to see that my fellow selectors also chose according to their own distinct tastes, sometimes overlapping with each other, resulting in some good discussions. The process of selecting or rather, acquiring artworks for the ING Collection fortunately leaves more time to reflect and decide.
Today's ING Collection reflects our ambition to demonstrate a culture of innovation and change within the company and outside, featuring artworks from emerging and established artists who push the boundaries of the figurative tradition and who are not averse to experimentation. The collection is the result of ING's long-term cultural engagement and commitment. Here in the UK the art collection has its roots in Barings, the British merchant bank acquired by ING in 1995. Until the 1970s the collection was focussed on the portraits and prints that illustrated the history of the firm. The firm then began to collect watercolours and Modern British Art and these collections give a unique and distinctive feel to our client reception spaces. They are joined by the ING Purchase Prize winners, a collection that has been growing since ING began sponsoring the exhibition in 1998.
I'll be looking forward to seeing my selection on display and of course hoping that it will be a successful exhibition for the artists featured. I'm also looking forward to seeing which work will be added to the collection through ING's Purchase Prize!
Selector Profile: Miranda Richardson
The Discerning Eye is about supporting artists and promoting the buying and collecting of art: being involved this year has been a real pleasure and privilege.
It offered me the opportunity to invite some of the artists I have collected (or would like to collect) whose work I live with every day.
When selecting from the open submission I drew on an immediate emotional response and have selected works which would fit into my collection.
It has been a pleasure to take part.
Hopefully you will enjoy my selection: perhaps it will prompt you to undertake your own journeys into collecting art ...