Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Ben Sullivan wins BP Portrait Award 2017

Benjamin Sullivan has finally won First Prize in the BP Portrait Award 2017 - after winning Third Prize in 2016 and being previously selected for the BP Portrait Award 12 times.  

Team Sullivan - portrait painter Ben Sullivan with the BP Portrait Award (First Prize)
and 
his two models - wife Ginnie and daughter Edie
The winning portrait was selected from strong competition - 2,580 entries were received from 87 countries

Below is a list of the Awards and who won what.  You can read more about each of the artists in the profiles contained in BP Portrait Award 2017 - The Shortlist

Giving the BP Portrait Awards a final polish
Interestingly, all the sitters for the main prizes were women and the First and Second prizes were both portraits of new mothers.  All the winning portraits are also very precise paintings - with both the second and third prize winners using very small hatching marks.

Admission to The BP Portrait Exhibition is free to the public. It can be seen at the National Portrait Gallery in London on 22 June until 24 September - when it will get about 300,000 visitors - after which it will then travel to Exeter, Edinburgh and Sunderland. (see below for details).

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Review: New English Art Club Annual Exhibition 2017

The 2017 Annual Exhibition of the New English Art Club (NEAC) opened at the Mall Galleries last week and continues until 25th June  (10am to 5pm; closes 1pm on final day).


I was unable to get to the PV for the NEAC Annual Exhibition and visited on Sunday afternoon instead. It was delightful to be able to see all the pics in comfort and I think I might want to make more Sunday visits! (Note I do most of the wide shots towards the end of the afternoon when fewer people are present)

This post provides:
  • images of the exhibition
  • my conclusions about 
    • the exhibition overall
    • the OPEN exhibition having viewed it in full three times and done some counting
    • sales - and sizes and price points
  • a listing of the main prizewinners

The Exhibition


The exhibition has 413 paintings, drawings and fine art prints (excluding work by members those not listed in the catalogue) plus 2 watercolours by HRH Prince of Wales. Paintings include oils, acrylic, watercolour and mixed media. Drawings included charcoal, pastel and graphite.

One thing NEAC may want to rethink is this statement. It might have been true once but I'd be happy to debate with the society whether it is still true.
Our Annual Exhibition held at Mall Galleries is now firmly established as a fixture of the London Summer Season, exhibiting painting and drawing made from direct observation.
 Generally the exhibition looked good. I'll be curious to see whether it performs as good as it looks. My notes indicate:
  • obviously a new guiding hand as there is a lot more colour - and then while drinking my cup of tea noted that Richard Pikesley is the new President so that explains that!  I note also that Richard sold extremely well in the exhibition - so he's obviously doing his bit to drum up both traffic and supportive buying collectors.
  • the 'hang' hung together - and presents a very pleasing contrast to the RA Summer Exhibition which I saw earlier in the week - where my eye kept getting 'lost'
  • the artists hung seem to be different - and I can't quite work out what I mean by that. I speculate that it's probably artists I'm used to seeing in the exhibition do't have work included and there are probably some new members whose work I've less familiar with. There again - there's the issue of who got selected for the open...
  • The exhibition is odd in terms of what gets hung where - of which more in the next section
  • The sales are not representative of the exhibition - of which more in the sales section.

The Main Gallery


Almost all the work is by NEAC members.



There were two small works walls in the Main Galleries and both had generated a few sales.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Columbia Threadneedle Prize returns


The Columbia Threadneedle Prize 2018 for the best new work of figurative and representational art launched today - however I was out and most of the rest of my week is committed with the BP Portrait Awards and exhibition reviews so I'll be reviewing the new exhibition website and doing my Call for Entries post a little later.

You don't need to worry - the deadline for entries is 22 September 2017!

However you can see
  • the launch video below 
  • images of selected works in previous exhibitions in the Archive on the website
  • past winners and my reviews and photos of past exhibitions (which give you a perspective on size of artwork) in my blog posts below



Plus you can see in my blog posts below.......

who has won the prize previously


So far the gender ratio in terms of prizewinners is 6 women and 2 men (or 7 women if you count both of the double header win in 2013!)

what previous exhibitions looked like 


PLUS the solo exhibition by Lewis Hazelwood Horner, the last winner in 2016, can be seen in this post Impressive solo exhibition by 2016 Threadneedle Prizewinner

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Does the RA Summer Exhibition still have the WOW factor?

I went to see the 2017 Summer Exhibition of 1,092 artworks at the Royal Academy of Arts on Monday - and this post should have been written sooner (but for an event this week).

This blog post is going to
  • show you how you can see the exhibition - even if you can't get to London
  • examine why this exhibition wowed me less than others and
  • identify pieces I really liked.
Friends Review on 12th June - Gallery III complete with Pimms Bar
This is how you can see the exhibition - without visiting:
  • a video on YouTube - which lasts 74 seconds (how many years has it taken for the RA to catch up with YouTube for promoting what an exhibition actually looks like?)



  • a Summer Exhibition Explorer website - where you can see ALL the exhibits - and create pages for different categories and price points. It started last year and seems to have been refined this year
  • for example, for those seeking more affordable art - there is an art for under £500 website option - which tends to include a lot of prints. 
You can see the exhibition in person in the Main Galleries at Burlington House, the home of the Royal Academy of Arts until 20th August 2017 (Saturday – Thursday 10am – 6pm; Friday 10am – 10pm). Entrance is £15.50 (without donation £14). Friends of the RA, and under 16s when with a fee-paying adult, go free.

Has the Summer Exhibition lost its WOW?


The Summer Exhibition this year has certainly lost its WOW related to oversized works and/or statements by artistic testosterone flaunting male artists - whether that be pink walls and stripey staircases or massive paintings almost covering an entire wall in Gallery III

It's altogether a gentler exhibition - quite possibly because it was put together by a female curator Royal Academician Eileen Cooper who wanted to explore themes of discovery and new talent.

That does however mean that the Courtyard is positively disappointing. The Wind Sculpture VI by Yinka Shonibare work is simply not big enough - and it's not helped by the cones off to the left, the "pavement cafe" scene out front and the cranes out back. You only notice all these things when your eye is not totally absorbed by a massive something or other.  (Looking at the pic of it in the online website, it looks much better in a domestic setting.)

If it wasn't for the colours you could blink and miss this installation.
Looking back after nearly a week, I'm finding it difficult to remember anything much about the exhibition apart from the Western Union: Small Boats (edition of 3 £200,000) video by Isaac Julien which was very impressive.  It also won the The Royal Academy of Arts Charles Wollaston Award 2017

This is the challenge of the Summer Exhibition - making sense of it.
This year I was somewhat preoccupied by the fact my steroid injection for my arthritis has worn off and I was more interested in whether or not a gallery had a seat to sit down on. (There were some but nowhere near enough considering the age of a lot of the visitors - the RA could be a LOT more disability friendly). My solution was to see the exhibition in two halves - with lunch over the road at Fortnum & Masons inbetween (the art on my plate was much more to my taste!)

So 10 reasons why the Summer Exhibition has lost its wow are:
  1. nothing made me say Wow!
  2. disappointing entrance to Burlington House (see above) and the exhibition (an exhibit at the entrance which stops you moving forward is not good for circulation and the colour of the walls was vile - like sick!)
  3. the small paintings are lost or swamped - why it's OK to hang similar smaller sized photos together but not small works is beyond me.  I used to love the crush in the Small Weston Room as we all tried to see all the small works - typically entered by the public.
  4. no models in the architecture section - it was literally and metaphorically too flat
  5. some galleries are crammed/swamped with strong images making them indigestible (eg the photography) and the gallery difficult to view.
  6. a certain lack of punctuation or good design on the walls - eye-catching statement pieces were either competing with one another or located in corners - making it difficult for the eye to 'read the room'
  7. too few good figurative paintings - by which I mean of the relatively realistic variety. There were any number of the more fantasy oriented or "I can't draw" variety.  I see a lot more paintings I like better on a regular basis in the open exhibitions and art competitions exhibiting at the Mall Galleries. 
  8. too few drawings - in past exhibitions we're seen a lot more drawings
  9. the prints seemed to lack something - I love the print rooms and yet this time prints seemed more amorphous - lacking colour or size as punctuation and scattered across a number of rooms
  10. Overall, it seemed as if the exhibition lacked a good "Edit"
I thought the galleries with coloured walls had more impact - but I wasn't a huge fan of the colours chosen.

See what I mean below

Friday, June 16, 2017

If you're interested in drawing - in London

For those interested in drawing, the Royal Drawing School is offering some opportunities to improve your drawing via

  • The Foundation Year
  • Free Life Drawing events
  • Summer Schools

The Foundation Year


Next Tuesday is the Open Day for The Foundation Year - A free one year, skills-based foundation course in London's creative Docklands
  • full-time course - five days of teaching a week 
  • structure of the course progresses from set assignments towards self-directed study
  • a limit of 50 places to ensure one-to-one tuition
  • free to 18 and 19 year olds 
  • some bursaries available for over-19s.
  • located at main campus at Trinity Buoy Wharf
You can book for Open Days on Tuesday 20 June 2017 @ 2pm
This is a link to the event announcement on Facebook re. the Open Day on 20th June and the same on the webite

Plus 2017/18 Open Days will be held on:
  • Thursday 12 October 2017 @ 2pm
  • Thursday 26 October 2017 @ 2pm
  • Saturday 25 November 2017 @ 11am
  • Wednesday 17 January 2018 @ 2pm
  • Saturday 27 January 2018 @ 11am

Applications for The Foundation Year 2018/19 will open in September 2017 and close in February 2018

You can see The Foundation Year End of Year Exhibition 2016-17 at Trinity Buoy Wharf between Wednesday 14 June – Thursday 22 June 2017 (Open 11am–6pm daily)

FREE Life Drawing

Every first Thursday of the month, during term time and the holidays, there is a free life drawing session, in collaboration with Time Out and the Whitechapel Gallery, 6.30-9pm. Places are offered on a first-come, first-served basis, and basic drawing materials are provided free of charge. This month we will be drawing in the studio with a life model.
See the website for more details about dates and venues for the First Tuesday events at:

Other public courses

More information about other public courses can be found on the website. You can also download our Public Courses brochure.



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