In London, there is the famous Threadneedle Prize. It is Europe’s answer to supporting the void in figurative art. Oh Good! Our prayers have been answered!!!
Wait—not so fast. The Threadneedle is an open call to all artists working around the theme: “Figurative Art Today”. It is up to these jurors to be the champion for artistic “talent” based around the figure, and integrate it into the contemporary art world. They have to sift through thousands of applicants and pick only a small percentage of Art for the show. But unlike the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy, there were large empty spaces on the walls and floors of the Threadneedle show. Why do so many artists get turned away, but yet there is still a half-empty room in the exhibit? Perhaps there are just fewer and fewer talented artists applying? Do you think they could be frustrated, like me?
On exhibit now, you can see Dea Campbell’s painting of two boys leaving a churchyard in a loose and expressionistic manner. It is truly gorgeous. Another that caught my eye was Pablo Garcia’s small yellow sticky note with an incredibly detailed portrait of a young man flashing a cheeky look. I almost pulled out my wallet right there! There was talent in this contemporary art show, though not as much as it SHOULD HAVE. Nonetheless, it made me grateful that the Threadneedle Prize exists.
But just when I thought things were getting better, I walked into the curated room. The Threadneedle exhibit holds aside one main room for the artists that get asked to participate. They are not part of the ‘open call to artists’, but are selected by an independent curator instead. Why they hired a curator who obviously has a disdain for the figure or things of representational in nature, seems obviously misaligned with the Threadneedle Prize and its mission.
Perhaps the Threadneedle prize wants to commit suicide and cease to exist? Or maybe it just wants to blend in and look like all the other art fairs and gallery openings all over the city. I could have been in Serpentine Gallery or the Bloomberg Space from what I saw in the curated room of the Threadneedle Prize this year. I really hope next year the founders think more carefully about their original reason for starting the Prize and choose a curator who can align themselves to that end. It is soon to become the same old hum-drum, instead of a powerful statement about “Figurative Art Today’. Thread that needle carefully….