By Kenn Taylor
This month sees the exhibition opening of the latest edition of the Liverpool Art Prize. Founded in 2008 when the city was European Capital of Culture, the Art Prize was created to help draw attention to local artists while the world’s spotlight was on Liverpool and has since become a regular fixture of the city’s art scene.
For the last three years the prize has been organised by Edge Hill-based Metal Culture. Jenny Porter, Project Manager at Metal, explains how the prize works:
“There’s a simple form on the website where artists submit basic details, including a piece of work or project that they have completed in the previous year. The judges, who change a little every year, meet to decide on a shortlist of four from the submissions and these four then go on to exhibit a body of work that is judged by the same panel. There is also a People’s Choice award determined by the public who visit the gallery.” There is always the chance of a double, says Jenny: “An artist could officially win both although this hasn’t happened yet.”
Anyone is allowed to nominate and artists can nominate themselves, the only criteria being that you have to have been born or be based in the Liverpool City Region, which includes the boroughs of Knowsley, Halton, St Helens, Sefton and Wirral. This year’s judging panel are Liverpool Biennial Director Sally Tallant, artist Tim Etchells, Liverpool Post Arts Editor Laura Davis and last year’s Art Prize winner, Robyn Woolston. The exhibition from which the overall winner will be chosen opens on the 26th April. The winner, and the People’s Choice, will both be revealed at an awards ceremony on Wednesday 29th May.
This year’s shortlisted nominees are Kevin Hunt, Tabitha Moses, Julieann O’Malley and Laurence Payot. French-born, Liverpool-based Payot creates work for public spaces, mainly by working with other people as participants. She explains: “For example, in Switzerland in 2010, I created a performance with 23 local men who were all dressed the same, all becoming the same character, ‘The Man Who Was Everywhere’. The work was about double-take, and about transforming something banal into something unexpected, disturbing, and out of the everyday.”
Payot hopes that a win in one of the prizes would prove a useful career aid: “It would raise my profile and allow me to carry on doing more work. If I won the public choice prize I’d be particularly chuffed because, even though this is an overused statement, I make art for everyone, and with everyone!”
Another nominee, Tabitha Moses, describes her practice thus: “I make beautiful objects that might make you feel uncomfortable.” Moses like many artists in the city has to do other things to survive and also hopes to benefit from the increased exposure a win would bring: “I do many other things in order to make a living; TV costume, lecturing, community workshops in art, craft, gardening and cooking. While I enjoy these other occupations, I would love to have more time to spend making things.”
The prize is not insignificant either. The overall winner will receive £2000 and also be offered a show at the Walker Art Gallery at some point during the ensuing 12 month period. The People’s Choice Award winner meanwhile will receive £1000.
Jenny at Metal is also keen to emphasise the importance the prize has beyond the nominees themselves: “I think any sort of exhibition that brings together practitioners from diverse and sometimes quite widely different practices shows the breadth of talent we have in the city. Through this exhibition we champion the artistic excellence found in Liverpool and connect this work to a wider audience.”
Founded in Capital of Culture year and a very different arts world from today, the Liverpool Art Prize has turned out to be something of a sustainable legacy that celebrates the city’s strong visual art scene and long may it continue.
This piece appeared in the 25th May 2013 edition of The Big Issue in the North.