In addition to being a visual arts editor at Dazed & Confused and Twin Magazine and contributing editor at AnOther Magazine and NOWNESS, Francesca Gavin is an independent curator and an author of various books on contemporary styles in art. To the judging panel she brings a well-trained eye with an uncanny knack of spotting talent under the radar then watching it grow. After graduating from a BA in History of Art at the University of York, Francesca moved to London, where her interest in and understanding of art was fully honed. Her first books established a strong awareness for trends and developments in the contemporary visual-art language. Her most recent,100 New Artists (2011), is a thorough overview of the current art landscape that evaluates and discusses “artists that are creating the aesthetics of the next decade.” All the artists in the book were born after 1970.
For the Emerging Artists Award, Francesca is seeking out “new mediums, new ideas, newness.”
After studying Fine Art at Leeds Metropolitan University, where he was “more interested in what everyone else was doing” rather than making work himself, Matt Williams took the curating course at the Royal College of Art and worked as an independent curator for several years. On moving to London in 2002, Matt set up a temporary artist-run space called The Mission in a friend’s living room with artist Anthea Hamilton. There they spent 12 months presenting inventive exhibitions like Fuelling Your Bourgeois Lifestyle from Bad Hair and Bad Teeth, before closing with Hasta La Vista, which featured over 60 artists in a room filled with fake snow, Christmas trees and a smoke machine. After a stint at International Project Space in Birmingham and co-editing the publication NOVEL, he was appointed as curator of exhibitions at the ICA, where he has brought innovative new art to a wider audience. He has worked with many artists in early stages of their careers, including Dazed favourites Ed Atkins and Simon Denny, and is always on the hunt for talented new artists.
What grabs Matt’s attention is “an ambition to challenge the conventional aesthetics of displaying work and the architecture of contemporary art galleries.” He will be looking for “good solid work that is honest and has a sense of permanence.”
After Kirsty Ogg graduated from the sculpture department at Edinburgh College of Art in the early 1990s, she returned to her hometown of Glasgow to participate in the DIY scene, setting up the now infamous artist-run space Transmission. It was during this time that she discovered her love and understanding of making exhibitions with other artists in a curatorial capacity. In 1996 she left Transmission to work as an independent curator until joining the Whitechapel Gallery in 2009. The artists she has worked range from household names to fledgling talents who have since become household names, such as Jim Lambie and Eva Rothschild, whose first solo exhibitions she staged.
This is Kirsty’s second year on the Emerging Artists Award judging panel. Her approach, she says, is to “keep a totally open mind. The interesting thing about this award is that you’re looking for artists defining a new territory or working in a new way. I think that's the role of the curator...you're always looking for the things that you don't know, the things you are less familiar with are the things that offer a fresh approach to looking at the world that exists around us'
Michelle's strong theoretical background underpins her role as a curator for firstsite gallery in Colchester. She studied English at King’s College London, then focused on art history during her MA at the world-reknowned Courtauld Institute of Art. She has worked for such major institutions as the Tate, Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge and our partner, the Whitechapel Gallery, presenting solo exhibitions by the likes of Henning Bohl and Paul Sietsema among many others, and received the Cubitt Gallery’s curatorial bursary in 2009. She has been on advisory panels for LUX and the Scottish Arts Council, and was a selector for the Contemporary Art Society’s Annual Award for Museums 2012.
Michelle is holding out for work that displays “intelligence... Or just makes me think.”
In April 1997, at the height of YBA fever, Sadie Coles opened up Sadie Coles HQ, a London gallery with a distinctly international edge. Since then she has one of the most influential gallerists in the world, representing such art stars as Matthew Barney, Helen Marten, Spartacus Chetwynd and Sarah Lucas, to name but a few. Sadie initially wanted to be a filmmaker, and studied art history and film theory, but her interest in making exhibitions grew when she took an institutional role at the Arnolfini in Bristol. On moving to London she made the unconscious shift to go from working in public museums to private galleries, working for dealer Anthony d'Offay then setting up her namesake gallery with a parallel exhibition of works by Sarah Lucas and US painter John Currin.
For Sadie, interesting work “depends enormously on intuition, and often has a way of revealing itself surreptitiously over time. You begin to see how it fits into the bigger picture of an artist’s career and into the zeitgeist. It has less to do with medium or specific categories such as figuration or abstraction or conceptualism, and much more to do with an ability to communicate immediately, to open a portal to an alternative way of thinking, of seeing the world. I'm not especially interested in showing work that needs a long explanation to access – I like art that communicates very strongly across cultural borders and languages.”
Since Paul Noble’s art-school days at Humberside College, where he mainly worked in painting, filmmaking and performance, he has sworn off colour and replaced it with drawing. After migrating south in 1987, he immersed himself in the London art scene, and became one of the founding members of City Racing (1988-98), an epoch-defining artist-run space with parallels to Glasgow's Transmission. He went on to show at Cubitt, Chisenhale, the Tate and many others, before winning an award from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation in 2000 and being nominated for the Turner Prize in 2012. He is famed for his continuing Nobson Newtown project, which spans intricate graphite drawings of his fictional town and bulbous monotone sculptures.
Of the need for awards such as this one, Paul says, “A prize brings validation. Art making is mainly a solitary affair with only yourself to trust when wondering, ‘Am I on the right road?’ Roland Penrose wrote, ‘The road is wider than long.’ Just to be on the road is the goal. The road is the prize.”
Not your average Oxford law graduate, Miranda Sawyer has established herself as one of Britain's foremost pop and culture commentators. She kicked off her journalist career in 1988 as a journalist on Smash Hits, and in 1993 became the youngest ever recipient of the PPA Magazine Writer of the Year award for her work on Select magazine. She was a key figure of the publishing revolution of pop culture on the 90s, contributed regularly to the likes of Mixmag and The Face and writing a column for Time Out. She is now a features writer at The Observer, contributes regularly to GQ, Vogue and The Guardian, presents a radio show on BBC 6Music, and is a regular figure on BBC2 TV programmes Newsnight and The Culture Show. A former judge for the Turner Prize, she will bring her wide variety of insight and cultural knowledge to bear for the Emerging Artists Award.
Miranda is looking for “something that sparks a unexpected response, that makes you see your world anew and askew.”