Painting is enjoying a remarkable creative renaissance in the 21st century, with many of the world’s leading artists now working in this media. ‘100 Painters of Tomorrow’ is an ambitious new project by editor-curator Kurt Beers and the publishers Thames & Hudson, initiated with the aim of finding the 100 most exciting painters at work today. An open submission invites any international artist working with paint to submit their work for inclusion in this new book. All entries will be judged by a prestigious panel which includes painter Cecily Brown, Chief Curator of the Tokyo Museum of Contemporary Art Yuko Hasegawa, Vitamin P author Tony Godfrey, collector Valeria Napoleone and curator Sir Norman Rosenthal among others. We caught up with Kurt to discover more about this exciting publication ...
Q) You are set to author the fantastic new publication ‘100 painters of tomorrow’. How did this idea first come about?
In my position as Director of Beers.Lambert Contemporary, a gallery that originated in Canada and then moved to the UK in 2010, I work with a lot of emerging and underexposed artists. In conversation, I began to notice a marked trend in which many talented artists – in this particular case, painters – were growing increasingly frustrated due to what they felt was an overwhelming lack of opportunities directed toward them; in my discussions with painters, it arose that this enduring media was being inadvertently overlooked by the (shall we call it) institutional arena. There appears to be countless awards, bursaries, and residencies available to artists working in other media, but such opportunities seem somewhat overlooked for painters. Opportunity leads to exposure, and I always say to the artists with whom I work: ‘you can be the best artist in the world, but if you’re working in a vacuum and no one is exposed to your work, none of that matters’.
Q) Why did you decide to run the project as an open submission?
The open-call allows for three things: scope, breadth and depth. If I might add upon my previous comment, I believe a lot of extremely talented artists are at work today, but a number of these artists are not filtered through the ‘established channels’: that being – graduate school, representation, or even exhibition history. It is my intention to allow the ‘unknown’ artist to have equal opportunity; that the diligent and extraordinarily talented artist working in a small community would have the same advantage as the up-and-coming artist located in an artistic-mecca. This idea was fervently backed by the publishers at Thames & Hudson, who also wanted to pitch a book that transcends the expectant who’s who of the art world: those books have been done, and 100 Painters is not intended to re-hash the critical darlings and fan-favourites, but rather, its primary objective is to locate and identify some of the most exciting, international emerging painters at work today. I anticipate that there will be some painters we have heard about that are already beginning to make a buzz on the local or international art scene, some that have surprisingly fresh perspectives, but it is also my hope that the book uncovers some remarkable, totally unrecognized talent to this point.
Q) What do you feel the judging panel brings to the calibre of the book?
The selection of the jury was paramount to the integrity and success of the book. My publisher, Jacky Klein (at Thames & Hudson) and I worked tirelessly at securing a jury that spoke to a wide cross-section of the art community, including artists, critics, theorists, and collectors. It was important that the jury encompass an international scope and maintain a gender balance. We are thrilled to work with such a stellar jury that will undoubtedly lend credibility to the selection process and the calibre of artists chosen for publication. Further, there will be a coinciding exhibition at London’s ICA, as well other opportunities for these deserving painters.
Q) A fantastic selection of art schools have been invited to encourage their students to submit work. How did you select this list and what are you hoping to see from them?
Jurors were asked to recommend schools for participation based on their knowledge‐base, geographical location, and specific area of expertise. The resulting list is – we believe – thorough and international, and the culmination of a lot of careful consideration in pin-pointing some of the world’s most important institutions. Our hope is that each of these institutions will recommend deserving candidates: both current students and alumni, who they deem worthy for consideration for inclusion in the book. However, it is worth noting that the book does not intend to select artists based solely on formal education – that is to say, we believe that a self-taught artist producing extraordinary work is equally deserving of placement in 100 Painters.
Q) Are there any particular artists you really hope to feature or are you keeping a very open mind at this stage?
We are keeping an open-mind; I know all jurors are excited by the prospect of truly ‘discovering’ new emerging talent from around the world. For us, the publication is one of those unique and rare opportunities to identify those artists we believe will shape the face of contemporary art in the coming years. We have successfully established a transparent and independent blind‐jury system whereby artist submissions will be tabulated by a ‘scoring’ process. Submissions are welcome now at the dedicated website [www.100paintersoftomorrow.com]. At the moment, we are disseminating this remarkable opportunity worldwide to allow for the largest number of applicants from which we will select the 100 finalists.
Q) Have you always been passionate about the medium of painting?
Yes. Absolutely. The gallery maintains a program that is fervently dedicated to all types of media, but I find myself continually mystified by painters and the way in which they translate the world.
Q) How much do you think using the right high quality materials (particularly in painting) impacts upon the visual appearance of an artist’s work, its longevity and its sale value?
Of course artists are subject to their own economic plight. Certainly, I think an artist must have pride in his or her work and to compliment that, there remains a responsibility to assure the artist’s market that this work is of the highest possible standard on a scale that directly relates to the success of their career. However, I don’t think this statement can be interpreted as ‘better materials equates better art’. I’ve encountered remarkable artworks that have been done on the most stringent of budgets or with such unconventional media but in which talent – sheer, unadultered talent – shines through. Of course the artist has a responsibility that the quality of his or her medium reflects the trajectory of one’s career, but talent trumps materiality, time and again. I don’t have time for smoke and mirrors; this is about the raw, uninhibited power of ‘talent’ through a variety of approaches and technical idioms.
Q) This project will be run in collaboration with Thames & Hudson. Can you tell us a little about some of the other exciting joint ventures you have completed in recent years?
I’ve always felt passionately about teamwork and collaboration. I’m not scared to learn from others in this industry and I’m willing to recognize the strengths of others, and grow from them. I’ve collaborated with RARE Gallery in New York City, and curated exhibitions for City University (London) as well as curated a group show, entitled Transgression, to coincide with a lecture series on Sexuality in art and theory, founded by University of Kent and London Institute of Philosophy. I’m currently in talks to curate a number of international exhibitions at other spaces into 2013 and 2014, which is really exciting for me, as I have the chance to expose some artists that I work with to a larger international audience. I’m also in discussion with a leading art magazine about an article I’m writing regarding the status of photography and materiality in a digitalized age, which will be paired with an exhibition entitled Artifice at Beers.Lambert later this year, for which I have already identified four up-and‐coming photographers to exhibit.
Q) Outside all of these brilliant projects, you run the successful Beers.Lambert gallery in Hoxton. What is the philosophy behind the gallery and what do you love most about the artists you represent?
The philosophy of Beers.Lambert can be summed up easily in a single word: passion. I grew weary of art that felt coldly dispassionate, and distanced the viewer instead of seducing with a unique perspective. The gallery predicates an exhibition program that prioritizes passion and technical ability, and what I like to think of as a sense of wonderment. The artists I represent each exudes these qualities in their own right. Technique is not to be misconstrued as representationalism, but I yearn to work with artists that compel and spellbind. I’m always on the look‐out for something new, something exciting, something technically brilliant and undiscovered.
Q) When will ‘100 painters of tomorrow’ be launched?
The open-call launch is now open, until March 15, 2013. The book is scheduled for an autumn 2014 release and will coincide with an exhibition at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts.
Q) Who is this publication perfect for?
100 Painters is perfect for any artist working with paint as a primary media. This is not limited to traditional ‘media on support’ and can encompass a variety of practices. We are looking to be surprised. Artists of all ages, located internationally, at any stage of their career and/or education are welcome to submit – provided that they are not already considered ‘established’. The appeal of such a unique publication is extensive: I felt there existed a void in the recognition of fine- ‐art publications that included – exclusively – emerging painters. True, books exist on those emerging artists working in any media, and there are countless painting books that reframe artists who are already well--‐ established internationally. However, to my knowledge, once this book is published, it will be the first (in recent years) of its calibre to acknowledge emerging contemporary painters. I’m confident that it will appeal to painters at all stages of their career – to the aspiring student or the established professional; to enthusiasts, thinkers, art‐professionals, and collectors alike; and even to those who simply have a casual interest the status of contemporary painting. I have always refuted the hyperbolic notion of ‘the death of painting’. Today, painting is undergoing a cultural renaissance; it Is more alive and well than it has been for decades, and 100 Painters aims to prove that painting is full of vigor, presence, and passion.