“Winners” Exhibition at the Mall Galleries (Part 1)

On Friday I visited the Winners Exhibition at the Mall Galleries in London. Artists who have work on display are members of national art societies who exhibit at the Mall Galleries and artists who submitted to their open annual exhibitions.

This is a BRAND NEW exhibition which displays artwork from all the winners of awards and prizes at the Annual Exhibitions of the Societies which belong to the Federation of British Artists between 2020 and 2022 (i.e. during the course of the Pandemic when fewer people were travelling to exhibitions).  It’s open until Saturday 6th August (10am – 5pm) – with a late night opening until 8pm on Wednesday 3 August.

Below you can find out more about the exhibition and read Part 1 of my Review plus view images of some of the artworks on the walls of the exhibition. (I’ll be uploading more to my Facebook Page)

View of East Gallery

The national art societies are:

  • Royal Society of British Artists
  • Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours
  • Royal Institute of Oil Painters
  • New English Art Club
  • Royal Society of Portrait Painters
  • Pastel Society
  • Hesketh Hubbard Art Society
  • Royal Society of Marine Artists
  • Society of Wildlife Artists

There’s no printed catalogue for the exhibition. However 

  • there is an online catalogue on Issuu – I can’t work out the order of the artists and artwork. It’s not alphabetical, it doesn’t seem to relate to the societies and those who have more than one artwork in the show only get one artwork in the catalogue. It seems to be loosely based on colour. However I keep getting the impression it’s not dawned on anybody that if it’s not printed and only online you can do much larger images for each artwork / artist. You can do up to 500 pages per upload and unlimited published documents for not very much at all…..
  • you can also see THUMBNAILS of the artwork online (scroll down) and 
  • there is a handout providing brief details of every artist available from the front desk.

Below is a video of the exhibition.

Review of Winners 2020-2022

This new exhibition is an excellent idea – and provides a great “end of season” event. (For me the art exhibition season always kicks off in September!).

It’s an exhibition which could benefit a lot of the winners of the open exhibitions held at the Mall Galleries by the FBA Societies

  • It provides an opportunity to view all the winners in one place at one time. 
  • if well marketed, it could act as a magnet for both art collectors and art galleries (Art fairs attract buyers for precisely this reason – you don’t get to just view works in one gallery but lots!)
Plus it’s not far from the RA and those visiting the RA Summer Exhibition could easily walk down to the Mall Galleries and spend time viewing a “more select” range of artwork.

This first exhibition contains a good variety of artwork of every genre, media and size and is well hung.  Most of the art is figurative i.e. not abstract – but the styles used vary a lot between the highly detailed photorealistic to impressionistic.

There is a lot of very colourful work – which bounces off the wall – while some of the quieter more controlled palettes become lost on the wall. 

I particularly liked the monochrome section at the entrance to the West Gallery – and there were strong monochrome pieces elsewhere in the exhibition

Monochrome wall in West Gallery
Monochrome artworks in East Gallery

The exhibition includes some really excellent drawings and prints. I’d have personally liked to have seen more – and this maybe reflects 

  • the lack of prizes in FBA Exhibitions specifically for drawings or prints. 
  • Or maybe it reflects the exhibition guidance? 

My exhibition notes highlighted a curious and rather anomalous aspect of the exhibition.  It included artwork which was clearly not reflecting the prize which the artists had won. For example:

  • somebody who won a drawing prize submitted a fully worked oil painting
  • somebody who won a prize in one media submitted in another
  • somebody who won for one topic submitted artwork about something completely different

To my mind, if this is an exhibition of prizewinners, I want to see artwork which is comparable to the artwork which won the prize. Obviously it does not need to be that artwork – but some recognition – either in the terms or guidance for the exhibition and/or the selection and/or by the artist would be very welcome.

The most obvious solution would be to introduce a constraint within the terms of the invitation i.e. please submit artwork similar to that which won the prize (eg same media / same or similar topic / etc)

Given this was an opportunity for artists to submit some of their best work it was interesting to see the range of sizes submitted

Winners 2022: part of The Mall Wall
Winners 2022: Mezzanine wall in West Gallery

Another thing which puzzled me. Most – but not all – of the artwork is great. 

  • Some people I know well have produced artwork very representative of their portfolio 
  • while others have NOT – in terms of subject matter or media or approach or degree of finish normally observed.
  • Some have produced some rather staid/boring and/or not hugely skilled artwork which I’m sure they will regret when they see the general standard of artwork in the exhibition in general. An alternative explanation is that work that looks good as a digital image can sometimes disappear when hung on a wall. Artists hoping or expecting they may be invited to exhibit in future exhibitions need to be mindful of this

I made some enquiries of artists I know whose work is hung in the exhibition. I think I have at least part of the explanation for why not all of the artwork is impressive. Apparently artists had relatively little notice to submit artwork for selection – and hence very little time to make new work.

  • end of April: artists were notified about the exhibition
  • 17th June 2022: closing date for online entries
  • 24th June 2022: artists were notified whether artwork had been selected for hanging
  • 26th July 2022: artwork had to be delivered to the Mall Galleries

In addition, the fact that Open Studios are held in Spring and Summer months and those who sell well sell a lot during this time might also account for some artists lacking good quality examples of their artwork (i.e. winter is for making and summer is for selling / “bird in the hand” etc!)

I found it interesting how some specialist subject matter / motifs cross the different art societies eg subject matter associated with the sea attracted entries from people exhibiting in a number of different art society exhibitions. By way of contrast, the standard of work on specific subject matter (eg flowers) varies hugely – from impressive to not.

I’ve commented below about how I think the exhibition can be improved for future years.

Pricing (Part 1)

On the topic of pricing art, Some artists still don’t have a clue. Those that do are selling. Need I say more? At the risk of being repetitive:

  • this is a Gallery which has some very clear hurdle prices for sales
  • those who have read my observations in the past on pricing and have adjusted to suit seem more likely to sell than those who clearly haven’t read a word about what I’ve written on pricing
  • some artists need to remember we’re on the brink of a recession. It’s highly likely that a lot of middle income people who buy art will be thinking very hard before splashing out on another artwork for their collection
  • My final circuit of the gallery involved photographing all the sold paintings and I’ll provide an analysis of pricing tomorrow for those sold over the equivalent of the first two days (i.e. not counting Wednesday which was a rail strike day)

The standout artists

I spotted a number of artists whose artwork made a very good impression – and I’ll write more about these tomorrow

The Next Winners Exhibition

I think this could be a great regular summer fixture at the Mall Galleries. There’s lots of benefits for all concerned:

  • if you don’t get to London that often, this is one exhibition which will allow you to see artwork by artists who have won awards and prizes
  • This exhibition is a great option for the school summer holidays which can be a bit of a dead period. 
    • Art societies prefer different times to exhibit
    • London is full of tourists while those living in the UK are more preoccupied with summer holidays or keeping children occupied / looked after. 

However I think it can be improved – in three ways

First, the marketing of the exhibition to all artists entering ALL open exhibitions needs to take place much earlier. This would enable every artist to understand that the exhibition offers 

  • a major boost to the career CV-  IF you win an award / prize 
  • another opportunity to show – and sell – your work.
  • if they win an award they need to have some great artwork to submit to this exhibition at the end of the season.
  • or lots of time to create new artwork specifically for the exhibition.

One artist suggested to me that if they won an award in the normal FBA Exhibition, they’d be sure to keep some of their best work back to submit to this exhibition.

Second, it suggests that those awarding prizes and awards might like to think more carefully about gets an award. I’ve seen exhibitions recently where individual artworks were winning more than one prize. For me, this is just lazy judging – unless the artwork is exceptional. Every prize adds merit to a CV and every art society should be thinking first and foremost how they can help artists with their careers.

Third, it needs a major cash prize. Finding a sponsor for a significant cash award (at least £5,000 and ideally £10,000) for the best work at the Winners Exhibition would add a MAJOR benefit which would:

  • ensure winners keep some of their best work back to exhibit at this exhibition
  • provide yet another boost to an artist’s career
  • create a talking point for marketing the exhibition – and all those that feed into this exhibition.