The inaugural Baltic Artist Award at BALTIC Centre of contemporary art, Gateshead

Artists selecting artists in the inaugural one-of-a-kind Baltic Artist Award from the United Kingdom.

Art Radar takes a look at the “artist’s artist” award and the prize’s resulting exhibition, on display at the BALTIC Centre of Contemporary Art in Gateshead until 1 October 2017.

Toni Schmale, 'wildkatze' 2016, steel. Installation view at BALTIC Artists’ Award, Gateshead, 2017. Image courtesy BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art.

Toni Schmale, ‘Wildkatze’, 2016, steel. Installation view at BALTIC Artists’ Award, Gateshead, 2017. Image courtesy BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art.

About the award

In early 2017 the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, UK, announced a contemporary art prize whose structure is innovative in the context of a landscape of contemporary art prizes containing judging panels populated by star curators. The Baltic Artist Award is a unique “artist’s artist award” –  the only prize in the United Kingdom whose panel consists only of art practitioners. Four prominent artists were invited to select candidates by the Baltic curatorial team, led by Sarah Munroe who recently arrived to the Centre.

Monica Bonvicini, Mike Nelson, Pedro Cabrita Reis and Lorna Simpson, artists who have all previously produced or exhibited work with the museum, each nominated a single artist who receives GBP25,000 for production of work, plus a GBP5,000 fee to show something new in the gallery in a 13-week exhibition. When the exhibition finishes, audience members vote on which presentation they felt most deeply impacted by. The selected artist, who will be announced in autumn 2018, will be commissioned to create a new work.

Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art. Image courtesy Baltic.

Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art. Image courtesy Baltic.

The shortlisted artists

Pedro Cabrita Reis selected Jose Dávila, a sculptor and installation artist known for his use of common construction materials such as steel, glass and concrete. Lorna Simpson chose to put forward Eric N. Mack, who works across painting and textiles often producing works that blend fabric and paint. Monica Bonvincini selected Toni Schmale, an artist whose work often departs from her experience as a professional athlete and explores the relationship between individual bodily practices and state practices of torture and exploitation. Mike Nelson chose to nominate the work of Chinese arist Shen Xin, who uses film to explore various notions of power infrastructures and social apparatuses.

Jose Davila. Installation view at BALTIC Artists’ Award, Gateshead, 2017. Image courtesy BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art.

Jose Davila. Installation view at BALTIC Artists’ Award, Gateshead, 2017. Image courtesy BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art.

The exhibition

The resulting works produced with the prize money now occupy two floors of the Baltic Exhibition space. On the top-floor of the gallery, Jose Dávila presents a work that performs a theatre of optical illusions, exploring contradictions of weight and mass through an installation of leaning steel I-beams, a red helium balloon and sandstone boulders, one of which hangs precariously over the helium balloon as if to crush it at any moment.

Eric N. Mack, 'A Lesson in Perspective', 2017, Mixed fabric installation. Photo: John McKenzie. Image courtesy BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art.

Eric N. Mack, ‘A Lesson in Perspective’, 2017, Mixed fabric installation. Photo: John McKenzie. Image courtesy BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art.

Eric N. Mack’s work demonstrates a love of fashion, form and material, fusing paint with readymade fabrics. In A Lesson in Perspective (2017) Mack quilts large-scale patchwork panels that blur the line between utility and style, suspending them from what appears to be an oversized clothes hanger.

Shen Xin, 'Provocation of a Nightingale', 2016, four channel film installation. Image courtesy BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art.

Shen Xin, ‘Provocation of a Nightingale’, 2016, four channel film installation. Image courtesy BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art.

In Provocation of the Nightingale (2017) – a four channel film installation – Shen Xin has created a series of disjointed narratives that weave together bewildering links between histories of DNA, Buddhist practices and relationships between women characters, unravelling Shen’s focus on power-play, femininity and intimacy. About Shen’s work, artist Mike Nelson stated:

With the work of Shen Xin I was immediately intrigued and wrong footed – it dealt with subjects and ideologies that I knew very little of, coercing my interest and understanding. It also felt like the right time for her as an artist based in Britain but with limited exposure here.

Toni Schmale. Installation view at BALTIC Artists’ Award, Gateshead, 2017. Image courtesy BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art.

Toni Schmale. Installation view at BALTIC Artists’ Award, Gateshead, 2017. Image courtesy BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art.

Toni Schmale’s exhibited work Wildkatze (2016) is a steel sculpture that departs from the so-called ‘wildcats’, which were customised rifle cartridges. The surface of the sculpture has been coloured using a technique often employed across the US military for making weapons more precise. Toni Schmales work has been compared to the artist who selected her for the award exhibition. Of the artist’s work, Monica Bonvicini said:

Toni Schmale’s practice reflects a serious and engaged research into materials and ideas, a precise execution, and a willingness to look for dialogue via unexpected and unexplored paths.

Rebecca Close

1774

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