Beck’s to the future

Six painters are among the shortlisted artists for ICA Beck’s Futures 2 Art Awards this year. With no odds-on favourite Suzel Pitty gives us an overview.

With the Turner Prize out of the way for another year, it’s time for the Institute of Contemporary Arts Beck’s Futures 2 Art Awards – Tomorrow’s Talent Today, to take centre stage and assume its position as the UK’s most exciting art prize.

In terms of money, Beck’s Futures 2 is the largest, with £4000 awarded to all ten shortlisted artists and £20 000 to the winner announced at the awards ceremony on 10 April.

In attitude, the award is less in competition and more in opposition to the Turner Prize, choosing to reward the work of promising new artists, rather than further acknowledge those already established in the art world.

More than 200 artists were nominated this year by a panel of artists, curators and critics. These were reduced to a shortlist of ten, who “all take a self-willed, unsensationalist artistic stance and draw on a variety of visual traditions”, says chairman of the judges, Martijn Van Nieuwenhuyzen.

Van Nieuwenhuyzen is curator of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, as well as associate director of ICA Exhibitions. The judges include artist Gary Hume, novelist Zadie Smith, chief curator of the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis Richard Flood, curator Katerina Gregos, and writer/art critic Anthony Fawcett. The panel reflects the variance of the award itself and “underlines the diversity of art in Britain today”.

There are no underlying criteria for judging and all media are welcomed. It is surprising that painting should emerge as the strongest medium this year, with six painters shortlisted and even one of the photographers chooses scenes that follow the composition of paintings or cartoons. Van Nieuwenhuyzen thinks this “may reflect the relevance of painting for the younger generations”.

The full shortlist is made up of six painters, three photographers, one sculptor and one multimedia artist. They are Shahin Afrassiabi, Fabienne Audéoud and John Russell, Simon Bill, David Burrows, Brian Griffiths, Dan Holdsworth, Gemma Iles, Tim Stoner, DJ Simpson and Clare Woods.

From either end of the list, Afrassiabi’s multimedia work shows broad influences from Russian deconstructivism to 3D spatial compositions using everyday objects that undermine each other, while Woods paints details of nature captured in the camera’s flash.

The most established name of the ten is photographer Holdsworth, already represented by the Entwistle Gallery on London’s Cork Street. His colour-saturated photographs explore advancing technology, all halogen-lit waste grounds and ever advancing trails of traffic on motorway flyovers.

As they are mostly unknown, there isn’t an odds-on favourite, which makes it far less predictable. As ICA director Philip Dodd agrees, “It’s national, it’s open and it’s generous – just what an arts prize with the future in its bones ought to be.”

ICA Beck’s Futures 2 Awards at the ICA, The Mall, London SW1 from 30 March until 20 May

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