Open art delights in Chichester

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The judging has been done and the results are about to go on show as the 15th National Open Art Competition – Chichester pulls back the curtains on this year’s selection.

Chairman Neil Lawson-Baker is delighted at the quality in a year in which the competition has ridden the recession to post an impressive 25 per cent increase in numbers of entries.

More than 2,000 works were submitted for the exhibition which runs in the Minerva building at Chichester Festival Theatre until December 29.

Just under a hundred works have now been selected, and from these the judges have selected a number of prize-winners who will share a £40,000 prize fund.

Under Neil’s chairmanship, the competition was relaunched and rebranded three years ago, since when it has soared.

“It has got a much-higher profile. It is now very well-known in the art world. It is regarded as a very honest and completely-open competition in that most competitions are loaded in one way or another. The artists recognise us as totally honest and totally fair.”

The five judges reduced the entries online to a short-list of around 450 which they then viewed during a day’s judging at Goodwood racecourse.

“We had a team of 30 volunteers to pack and unpack the works and carry them in front of the judges. The judges judged for the whole day and chose around a hundred.”

In fact, after feeling that the exhibition last year was slightly “over-hung” – crowded – the judges have gone for just under a hundred this time, an entries to exhibition ratio of around 20 to one, which, as Neil says, is a good one.

“They are all expert judges. They are after originality. It’s also about the quality and the professionalism of the work, how the artist uses the media, whether it is painting or photography. It is also about the presentation.

“They are looking for something that is either really really well done traditionally or something that is really exciting or new. Sitting behind the judges, as the trustees and I sometimes do, there is just occasionally one work that we like but the judges don’t. But there are five judges so it is very fair. They disagree among themselves, but if three of them like something, then it goes through.”

The exhibition is open to the public, admission free.