Galleries - October 2014

National Open Art Competition NOA (£60k) at Somerset House, the comparisons are interesting and inevitable, with both shows continuingto evolve and expand their remit year on year. The former, with its declared interest in figuratively based art, has now bought in guest curator Sacha Craddock to curate a show of contemporary figurative painting and sculpture she admires alongside the selected work. No photography here as yet however, an element which, meanwhile, continues to form an increasingly important part of NOA’s brief with photographer Caroline Irby one of the four selectors. Two nicely contrasting shows which, between them, give a good overview of the current vitality of the, generally speaking, emerging artistic scene – ‘must sees’ in short. Frieze Masters MK3 Founded in 2012 “to give a unique contemporary perspective on art of all ages” alongside its well-established super-contemporary older brother, Frieze London, Frieze Masters has quickly made a name for itself in its own right while the cross-over of international audiences from one to the other – a nice walk across purchase, prize by sponsors Odgers Berndtson), the real attraction beingthe promise of a solo exhibition at the gallery in 2015. It certainly worked here, all of us beingsurprised by the huge range and sheer quality of the entry as, for example, in Alison Elliott’s Visindar – a modern-day ‘take’ on Stubbs and of tremendous vitality. Cynthia Corbett’s ‘Young Masters’, beginning in 2009, was very quick particularly to spot the youthful trend to ‘modern’ Old Masterdom, and her judges, Charles Sausmarez Smith, Secretary of the RA amongthem, have selected 30 artists, most with a particular bent in this direction, for a shortlist which looks of crackingquality, if that by Red Saunders (illustrated here) is anythingto go by. Corbett takes great trouble about exhibitingthe ‘oldmaster-rish’ work appropriately too, one group from the 30 being exhibited in the atmospheric Georgian town-house surroundings of Lloyds Club in the City and another alongside 18/19 C. works at Sphinx Fine Art in Kensington. The Ceramics Prize looks spot on too, with the Show Director of COLLECT, Daniella Wells and collectors Maylis Grand and Preston Fitzgerald picking 15 promising new names, to be shown in the same spaces at the same times. Turningnow to the ‘bigguns’, the Threadneedle Prize (£35k+) at the Mall Galleries and the 10 GALLERIES OCTOBER 2014 ANTENNAE Figuration Revived While artists tend to be rightly wary of fashions in critical theory – it can often seem like a primary function of art school teaching these days – there is no question that the broad-scale shift away from hard-line modernism, abstract and conceptual in character, towards a sort of all- purpose post-modernism in which the art of the past becomes a glorious dip-bag of eclectic, often historically-based styles, has really taken root among the younger generation. Witness the various intriguing competitions, both large and small, that have been opening in London this month and last. For fairness’s sake let’s start with the two smaller, gallery- based enterprises – the Curwen Gallery Prize for Painting 2014 (from 8 October) and the Cynthia Corbett Gallery ’s Young Masters Art Prize with, fresh this year, the impressively titled Young Masters Maylis Grand Ceramics Prize. The first of these, a new scheme and one in which, as one of the three invited judges along with Sir Peter Blake and Anthony Green RA, I must declare an interest, is aimed straightforwardly at “artists who show excellence in the field of figurative painting and who do not have representation in London.” First prize money by today’s ever-inflating standards is, at £1,000, comparatively modest (there is also a second, Alison Elliott ‘Visindar’ at Curwen Gallery S teve McPherson at Landmark Autumn Art Fair