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Nathaniel Mellors Wins the £40,000 Contemporary Art Society Annual Award 2014

Nathaniel Mellors, in partnership with the Harris Museum & Art Gallery, has won the Contemporary Art Society Award 2014. Mellors will create a film that will form the centrepiece of a 15 month exhibition on the themes of Samuel Beckett and The Theatre of the Absurd.

The £40,000 prize, generously supported by the Sfumato Foundation, is one of the country’s highest value contemporary art awards and this year was presented by Turner Prize-winning artist Martin Creed. Mellors will be making a hybrid work of fiction, sculpture, performance and film, using the architecturally monumental, brutalist Preston Bus Station as its focus. The Bus Station has recently been Grade II listed and this, as well as the compact and architecturally diverse city centre of Preston, makes for an ideal film set. His current practice and this film commission are part of Mellor’s ongoing Ourhouse body of works, produced by NOMAD, which has featured a panoply of British acting talent including Richard Bremmer (Control, Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone), Gwendoline Christie (Game of Thrones, Star Wars: The Force Awakens), Patrick Kennedy (Atonement, Boardwalk Empire), David Birkin (Sylvia, Les Miserables) & Johnny Vivash (Perdition County, Vigilante) as well as local performers in supporting roles.

Nathaniel Mellors said: The support and faith in my work that this award represents is impossible to put a price on, particularly from such a strong shortlist. It is a unique opportunity to consolidate recent developments in my practice and pull out some deeper weirdness, both with my amazing collaborators and through the extraordinary locations in and around Preston.

Caroline Douglas, Director, Contemporary Art Society, said: In a year with exceptionally strong applications for the Award, the Harris Museum proposal with Nathaniel Mellors was outstanding. Nathaniel Mellors’ work connects with a tradition of absurdist and satirical film making in Britain that includes such figures as Lindsay Anderson and Derek Jarman.  I am delighted that the Award will enable the production of a substantial new work within Mellors’ oeuvre, and one that links so directly to the city it will be made in.

Cllr Veronica Afrin, Cabinet Member for Culture & Leisure Services; Preston City Council, said: Nathaniel Mellors is a prestigious and fascinating artist, and we are immensely proud to be working with him on this major commission. His unique imagination and approach to film making will enable him to draw on and re-imagine the museum’s collections and the fabric of the city, cementing Preston’s growing reputation as a centre for high quality cultural activity.

1. ABOUT CONTEMPORARY ART SOCIETY The Contemporary Art Society is a national charity that encourages an appreciation and understanding of contemporary art in the UK. With the help of our members and supporters we raise funds to purchase works by new artists which we give to museums and public galleries where they are enjoyed by a national audience; we broker significant and rare works of art by important artists of the twentieth century for public collections through our networks of patrons and private collectors; we establish relationships to commission artworks and promote contemporary art in public spaces; and we devise programmes of displays, artist talks and educational events. Since 1910 we have donated over 8,000 works to museums and public galleries – from Bacon, Freud, Hepworth and Moore in their day through to the influential artists of our own times – championing new talent, supporting curators, and encouraging philanthropy and collecting in the UK.

2. ABOUT CONTEMPORARY ART SOCIETY ANNUAL AWARD FOR MUSEUMS One of the highest value contemporary art prizes in the country, the £40,000 Contemporary Art Society Annual Award for Museums supports a UK-based museum or public gallery to work with an artist of their choice to commission a new work that, once completed, will remain within the museum’s permanent collection. For the winning museum, the award allows the acquisition of an ambitious work of contemporary art of national importance, and for the winning artist (who may be showing widely nationally and internationally but whose work is not represented in collections in this country), the award is a stepping stone to greater visibility and provides access to national and international audiences. The award is open to all museums in the Contemporary Art Society’s Museum Membership network and artists anywhere in the world. The Contemporary Art Society Annual Award is generously supported by the Sfumato Foundation, which exists to promote, encourage and support the education of the public in the arts, humanities and sciences. The Sfumato Foundation developed the award in collaboration with the Contemporary Art Society in 2009 and has been a partner since its inception. Previous recipients of the award include: The Graves Art Gallery, Museums Sheffield (with artist Katerina Šedá) in 2009; the Hepworth Wakefield and Wolverhampton Art Gallery (with Turner Prize nominated artist Luke Fowler) in 2010; Nottingham Castle Museum & Art Gallery (with artist Christina Mackie) in 2011; The Collection & Usher Gallery, Lincoln (with artist Oliver Laric) 2012; and last year’s winners: Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology in partnership with the Pitt Rivers Museum and the Ruskin School of Drawing & Fine Art (with artist Elizabeth Price).

3. ABOUT NATHANIEL MELLORS British artist Nathaniel Mellors (born 1974) makes irreverent, absurd and hilarious videos, sculptures, performances and writings that challenge our notions of taste, morality, and intelligence. Based in Amsterdam and Los Angeles, recent solo exhibitions include Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London; De Hallen, Haarlem; and the Stedelijk Museum Bureau in Amsterdam. Recent group shows include British Art Show 7 – In The Days of the Comet (2010-11); Altermodern at Tate Britain (2009); and the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011. In 2009, Mellors was commissioned by the BBC to make a short work of art to introduce the final episode of the cultural history series The Seven Ages of Britain and in 2013 made a short for Channel 4 through the Jarman Award. He is the 2011 recipient of the Cobra Art Prize. Mellors studied at the Ruskin School, Oxford University (1996-99), the Royal College of Art, London (1999-2001), and the Rijksakademie, Amsterdam (2007-09).

4. ABOUT THE HARRIS MUSEUM & ART GALLERY The Harris Museum & Art Gallery, Preston is one of the leading museums in the North West and features contemporary art, fine art, decorative art and historic collections of national significance. Located in the heart of Preston in a stunning Grade 1 listed building, it hosts a wide range of exhibitions and events and is fast gaining a reputation for its innovative and ambitious contemporary arts programme. The Harris is a major tourist attraction, welcoming 220,000 visitors per year.www.harrismuseum.org.uk


Paul Bonaventura (Senior Research Fellow in Fine Art Studies, University of Oxford) Paul Bonaventura is the Senior Research Fellow in Fine Art Studies, University of Oxford. After studying history of art at Reading University and the Courtauld Institute of Art, Paul went on to organise exhibitions of work by modern and contemporary artists, firstly at the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford and subsequently at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London. Since 1994 he has overseen research activities at the Ruskin School of Art where he has developed a particular interest in encouraging cross-disciplinary collaborations between artists and experts from other disciplines. Paul was an artistic advisor on the UK Pavilion at Aichi Expo in 2005 and guest-curator of the One Giant Leap season at BFI Southbank to coincide with the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11 in 2009. Paul devised a major commission for the London 2012 Festival and is at present working on large-scale projects to mark the centenary of the First World War and the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. Paul is a trustee of Camden Arts Centre in London and Situations in Bristol and a special advisor to the Design and Artists Copyright Society.

Helen Legg (Director, Spike Island) Helen Legg has been the director of Spike Island, Bristol, since September 2010. Since joining, Helen has curated exhibitions with contemporary artists such as Haroon Mirza, Becky Beasley, Laure Prouvost, Dewar and Gicquel, Ciara Phillips and Corita Kent, Ivan Seal, Jessica Warboys and Cevdet Erek. Prior to this role, Helen was Curator at Ikon, Birmingham, working on exhibitions and offsite projects. Additionally, Helen worked on the development of Ikon Eastside, a second gallery based in a former factory building in Digbeth, an industrial area of Birmingham. Helen is chair of Visual Arts South West, on the advisory board of the Bristol Cultural Development Partnership and serves on the acquisition committee for Frac Midi-Pyrénées 2012-15. In 2013, Helen was chosen as a selector for the Paul Hamlyn Artist’s Awards and this year will act on the judging panel for the 2014 Turner Prize.

Tom Morton (Curator, Writer and Contributing Editor, Frieze) Tom Morton is a writer, independent curator, and contributing editor of Frieze Magazine. Tom has worked as a curator at Cubitt Gallery London, the Hayward Gallery London, and was co-curator with Lisa Le Feuvre on the major quinquennial travelling survey exhibition British Art Show 7: In the Days of the Comet (2010-11). Tom’s recent exhibitions include British British Polish Polish: Art from Europe’s Edges in the Long ‘90s, The CSW Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw (2013), Today, The CSW Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw (2013), It Means It Means! – A Drawn Exhibition by Charles Avery & Tom Morton, Galerie Perrotin, Paris and Pilar Corrias, London (2013). Tom has contributed critical writing to magazines including Frieze, Parkett, Metropolis M, and Bidoun, as well as numerous exhibition catalogues and edited volumes. Tom is currently working on his first novel.

Eva Rothschild (Artist) Eva Rothschild is an Irish artist living and working in London. Eva creates sculpture working in a range of materials, which primarily consider the transformative power of looking. Eva’s recent solo exhibitions and public commissions have included the Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin, (2014), Why Don’t You?, The Nasher Sculpture Centre, Dallas, Texas (2012), Boys and Sculpture, The Whitechapel Gallery Children’s Commission (2012), Hot Touch,  The Hepworth Wakefield and Kunstverein Hannover, Hannover, Germany  (2011), Empire, Public Art Fund Commission sited in Central Park, New York (2011), Cold Corners, Tate Britain’s Duveen gallery commission (2009). Group exhibitions have included You Imagine What You Desire, Sydney Biennial, Sydney, Australia, (2014), We are living on a star, Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Oslo, Norway (2014), Changing States, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, (2013), Making is Thinking, Witte de With, Rotterdam, Netherlands (2011),The Dark Monarch, Tate St Ives, St. Ives (2009),  Un-monumental: Falling to Pieces in the 21st Century, the New Museum, New York (2007). Eva’s work is included in public and private collections including Tate Britain, MoMA, New York and the Irish Museum of Modern Art.

The Annual Award

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