Some time ago I was asked to put down my ideas of a dedicated visual art award for Ireland. This was after a long conversation, with me shooting my mouth off. After not hearing any feed back I talked to a friend of mine about it who told me my ideas would never work in Ireland. I don’t see why.
The idea behind this award is to give a platform for outstanding visual art in Ireland today by highlighting the extraordinary work of artists based in Ireland.
Criteria for artists
The criteria for artists eligible for this award should be kept simple. They should be alive for a start. In addition they should be living and working in Ireland today and be visual artists. The reason for such simple criteria is to celebrate those artists who need it most; those who are trying to make a living from their art today. The reasoning behind limiting it to artists currently living and working in Ireland is that we need to promote and support art being created here in Ireland. While it is fantastic that we have Irish artists all around the world flying the flag for the country, we must enable artists to stay and work within their communities if they so choose. The best way to do this is to promote and exhibit their work, and give them a chance to become established without moving to London or New York. What the Irish culture gains from this approach is art and artists embedded in the contemporary Irish way of life; reflecting, commenting on, and invigorating Irish culture and giving the outside world a more rounded view of modern Ireland.
Selection and selection panel criteria
This is not a competition. It is an award. It is an important point to highlight. Artists will not be entering their work; they will be selected for a short list by a diverse artist-led panel. The concept being that this is awarded by peers and eminent people in the field of art is more prestigious than a competition to be entered which can become, or be seen as, a popularity contest. Prestige is important if we want this award to boost the winning artist’s career. The overriding consideration should always be on promoting Irish visual art in Ireland and abroad.
- This award is open to all visual art mediums. It is important that it is perceived as a diverse representation of contemporary visual art in Ireland.
- There should be four shortlisted artists each year, with one winner selected.
- The four selected artists should submit work to form an exhibition.
- A cash prize should be awarded to each shortlist artist if possible with an additional award for the winner.
- The selection panel should be between six and eight people, the majority always being visual artists. The reason for this is to keep the focus on the art over other considerations.
- At least one panel member should represent each Irish province, and be defined as living and working within that province. This is to promote diversity and find those artists who are not currently being exhibited, as well as those more established.
- One member of the panel should be from outside Ireland.
- Each year at least one member of the panel must resign and a new member or members selected. This will prevent the award from stagnating.
- Each panel member will offer four artists for consideration. From these, the panel will select the final four and from that four, the winner. The original long list must be kept secret; mostly to prevent artists from feeling disappointed at not being selected.
- This award should be for individual artists and not groups or collaborations. This is to ensure that the vision and tenacity of single artists be celebrated.
- Artists put forward for consideration must be living and working in Ireland.
As already mentioned, the overriding consideration should be the promotion of contemporary visual art in all its forms being created in Ireland. The best way to achieve this would be to organise a televised award ceremony that also gives a short biography or over view of each shortlisted artist. Alongside this, longer films for each artist for online and social media content could be created. I think it would be fun to allow each artist be in control of their biography. This would give it a more natural and interesting edge. By utilising and embedding social media from the outset we would be opening up to what is now the largest art consumer market in the world: Instagram, YouTube, Vimeo, Twitter and the like are the world’s biggest galleries and as such offer us a unique way to promote Ireland-based art like never before.