Australians love an art award. So much so that today there are hundreds of them nationwide. Some have specific themes and genres, while others are high profile and create a cult following of celebrity – but all are an exercise in professional development and notoriety.
One of the biggest questions asked at ArtsHub is: How do I, as an artist, find the best price for my practice and one that will get my work seen? So we put the question to an art prize juror, Sebastian Goldspink.
As Founder of ALASKA Projects and Curator of the Adelaide Biennial of Australia Art in 2022, Goldspink has presented numerous awards over the years, including the important 2013/14 John Fries Memorial Prize and the Churchie Emerging Art Prize, which opens as part of IMA Brisbane will , July 30th. He regards the task as a privilege.
ArtsHub: Why rate an art award?
Sebastian Goldpink: For me it’s a great way to see the breadth and depth of the practice in an Australian context. Presenting awards to artists that I know will have a profound impact on their lives and careers is always a thrill and an honor, especially when I’m lucky enough to see the results.
AH: Now that you know what you know now, what advice would you give yourself in order to take on the role of judge?
SG: I think judging for the first time can be a very scary experience. I had the honor of judging alongside some very established judges. Coming from the world of emerging art and artist-run spaces, I didn’t have the careers of my fellow judges. My advice would be to appreciate your perspective, appreciate where you come from, especially if it’s a different perspective. Honor your instincts and be ready to defend your position.
Read: Maximize your chances of winning an art award
AH: How important is context and knowledge of art history and the contemporary art scene, or is it a matter of focusing the judgment on what’s in front of you?
SG: I think all perspectives are important. It is a combination of an informed and an instinctive perspective. Knowing the artists’ previous work helps contextualize what lies ahead. Knowledge of contemporary art in context also helps in particular to protect oneself from consciously derived works.
AH: What are the top three things you are looking for?
SG: An artist reaching out, expanding himself and his practice. A work that is well done as opposed to polished – it must have purpose and dynamism. It may be dingy or makeshift, but unintentionally it decays. Work that seems sympathetic to the other works in the finale, but stands out.
AH: What about judging in a jury, how does it work and what do you think is the advantage of it?
SG: It is a rewarding and collegial experience to be on a board. There is definitely less inner fear. When you are the sole judge, you have many personal conflicts internally. Sometimes you need to go outside just to refresh your eyes.
AH: Do you prefer to work as a panel or alone?
SG: I’ve experienced numerous types of judgment and don’t have a fixed preference. I really try to focus on art and artists. They are the ones who are important in the process. I’m here to be focused, fair and open.
AH: What is the most important piece of advice for an artist who is submitting? I’m assuming the first selection will be digital for most awards, so how critical is that first digital submission?
SG: It is crucial to have good pictures. I can’t stress this enough. I’m not suggesting professional shots, but I’m an advocate of clear, reasonably sized shots with no background distractions.
With regard to biographies and artist statements, they make them clear and informative. Don’t try to dress them up in unnecessarily blunt language. If you’re a photographer, mention that instead of showing Foucault second hand.
AH: Tell me about the 2022 Churchie Emerging Art Prize, which you’re about to judge; Why did you decide to do this and why do you think this prize is important?
SG: The Churchie is a highly valued award. It has a wonderful history and I’ve seen first hand the benefits emerging artists get from having their work recognized nationally. For an artist just starting out, it’s a validation for himself, his family and colleagues that he can contribute to the larger history of art in Australia
AH: How much of what you see in awards feeds into your work as an independent curator?
SG: I’ve benefited so much from being exposed to artists’ work through prize submissions. I’ve made numerous connections, and that includes artists who haven’t made final selections yet. I pride myself on being a curator with a large database of artists in mind. I am often asked by other curators to recommend artists for projects. Many of these artists come straight through the judging process.
AH: Have you ever submitted artworks for a prize yourself (that’s on the other page)?
SG: Luckily I’m not an artist. That being said, I would find it very odd if there were a curator award. I understand the process for artists as many of my friends are artists and I hear their struggle stories but also share in their victories.
AH: What about disappointments, how do you handle that in the price landscape?
SG: A good friend of mine says you can be sad for 24 hours, then dust yourself off and move on. It’s good advice. Just because you don’t win or aren’t selected as a finalist doesn’t mean anything in the scheme of things.
AH: Think Australia’s price landscape is too crowded?
SG: I’m an advocate of opportunities for artists and I see awards as a clear opportunity, so I’m all for it. I say this because I recognize that there are so many prizes.
AH:. And what about the division, thematic or non-thematic / genre or no genre etc. What do you think makes a better price?
SG: I prefer open prices.