Contemporary Art Society Annual Award 2015 Shortlist

Nathaniel Mellors in partnership with the Harris Museum & Art Gallery, winners of the Contemporary Art Society Annual Award 2014, Photo: Sophie Mutevelian

Now in its seventh year, the prestigious £40,000 prize is one of the country’s highest value contemporary art awards. This unique commissioning award is presented by the Contemporary Art Society to a museum or public gallery in the UK with a nominated artist. The prize offers the winning museum the opportunity to commission a major new artwork for their permanent collection by an artist who is not yet well represented in museum collections in this country.

The winner will be announced at a special ceremony at the Barbican Centre in London on 23 November 2015.  The presenter of the 2015 award will be announced later in the year, with previous high-profiled presenters including Grayson Perry, Cornelia ParkerJeremy Deller, Mark Wallinger and Martin Creed.

The members of the independent Annual Award 2015 jury are: Annie Fletcher (Chief Curator, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven), Polly Staple (Director, Chisenhale Gallery), Michael Archer(Critic and Professor of Art, Goldsmiths College) and Haroon Mirza (Artist).

The nominees for the Contemporary Art Society Annual Award 2015 are:

Pablo Helguera with Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art

Mexican, New York-based artist and writer Pablo Helguera’s (b. 1971) practice focuses on topics ranging from history, pedagogy, sociolinguistics and ethnography in mediums that are widely varied, including socially-engaged projects, museum display strategies, lectures, musical performances, essays and fictional texts. mima proposes commissioning Helguera to redesign their third floor as an interconnecting series of rooms called The Gymnasium, a place of holistic education as a stimulus for wellbeing and personal empowerment. Visitors would use it through exercising, accessing the collection, taking care of an edible garden or self-organising initiatives. Helguera will structure this with a bespoke learning and physical activity programme that connects mind and body. His work honours both meanings of the word ‘gymnasium’: a location for sporting and a preparatory school. It also suggests the ancient role played by the gymnasium as a hub for debate.

Ragnar Kjartansson with Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales and Artes Mundi

Kjartansson was born in Reykjavík, Iceland, in 1976, where he continues to live and work. The entire arc of art – film, music, theatre, visual culture and literature finds its way into his video installations, durational performances, drawings and paintings. Pretending, performing, acting and staging become key tools in the artist’s attempt to convey sincere emotion and offering a genuine experience to the audience. Repetition is also key to his practice; collaborative performances can last hours, days, and weeks. Kjartansson’s work The Visitors was shown in Artes Mundi 6 but he is yet to be represented in a UK public collection. The application proposes that funding awarded by the Derek Williams Trust (DWT) Purchase Prize could be combined with the Contemporary Art Society Annual Award to commission a new, ambitious performance and film installation which will involve a number of elements including the museum itself, the local music scene from opera to pop and a 1774 chamber-organ in the National Museum Cardiff which is still regularly used for organ recitals.

Stephen Sutcliffe and Graham Eatough with The Whitworth, part of The University of Manchester, in partnership with LUX

Glasgow based artist Stephen Sutcliffe (b.1968, Harrogate) creates film collages from an extensive archive of British television, film sound, broadcast images and spoken word recordings which he has been collecting since childhood. Graham Eatough is a theatre maker who also works in visual arts and film. Having co-founded Suspect Culture Theatre Company in 1992, Graham was Artistic Director and Chief Executive. During this time Graham directed and occasionally performed in fifteen productions for the company which gained an international reputation for high-quality, innovative new work. The Whitworth propose to commission a new collaborative film combining Sutcliffe’s interests in British literary and popular culture of the 1960’s and 1970’s with Eatough’s ongoing exploration of theatricality in the creation of meaning in contemporary culture. Within the context of The Whitworth, these themes would take on a very specific meaning through exploring the artist as a cultural figure and raising ideas around authenticity and posterity by linking theatrical performance and irreverent humour. Working with LUX to ensure national and international exposure, Sutcliffe and Eatough’s commission would inevitably reflect upon the contents of the collection in which their work would eventually reside as well as continue to support The Whitworth’s commitment to collecting new media. This collaboration would also open up research opportunities across the disciplines of performance, film and theatre.

Katrina Palmer with The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery in collaboration with the Henry Moore Institute

Katrina Palmer (b. 1967) is known for her audio works that create sculptures using words. Her sculptures take the form of installations, books, readings, and recordings, and she creates immersive environments that draw on history, literature and systems that produce knowledge. Themes of death, sex, and loss permeate her practice; fiction and narratives are always central. The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery and the Henry Moore Institute propose to commission Katrina Palmer to create the University of Leeds Art’s first non-object campus work, connecting its buildings to the existing public art collection. The audio artwork would be delivered digitally, online and through mobile technology for visitors and listeners to engage with on campus. To commission Palmer would also contribute towards the Gallery’s efforts to address the gender imbalance in its collection by seeking out relevant, high-quality work by women artists. This is especially important for Leeds, given its importance as a centre of feminist art history, and as the site of the Feminist Archive North.

For more information on the 2015 award, contact:
Christine Takengny
Curator, Museum Acquisitions
+44 (0)20 7017 8404

For all press enquiries, contact:
Marcus Crofton
Communications Manager
+44 (0)20 7017 8412


The Contemporary Art Society Annual Award for Museums is generously supported by the Sfumato Foundation.



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