We are keen on the prize being open in terms of nominated artists being able to work in any media and spanning a range of ages and career stages. Thus the long list provides a view of the breadth of artists working and exhibiting in the north. So what criteria do we give the nominators? Well, primarily artists must be resident in the north, although they can be working nationally or internationally. We also state that artists who have been long listed before can be nominated again in consecutive years, but shortlisted artists may not.
Then come the slightly more tricky criteria; we ask nominators to select artists “whose work is critically rigorous, experimental, engaging and demonstrates knowledge and a range of skills.” To a reader outside the arts this might seem rather woolly. What do words like ‘rigor,’ ‘knowledge,’ ‘skill’ and ‘criticality’ mean in terms of contemporary art? These criteria key into what is arguably the predominant mode of art production today. Contemporary art is not medium specific and it is not based on technical skill in the traditional sense. Artists deal not only in objects but in affects, in meanings and in relationships. Although selections will inevitably be somewhat subjective, we rely on the experience of our nominators to put forward artists to fulfill the criteria.
There are also some limitations on the age and career stage of nominees. Artists nominated for the prize may be of any age over 21 years old. MA and PhD students may be nominated but undergraduates cannot and recent BA graduates must have graduated 5 years prior to the date of their nomination. There are two reasons for this latter criteria; firstly, although we want to be open to artists of differing career stages, we feel it is unlikely a new graduate will have the body of work or range of experience to be fairly judged alongside an artists with several years experience. Secondly the prize rewards artists who remain in the north or who choose to move or return here. Very new graduates have not yet demonstrated a decision to establish a practice in the north. This year we have had some debate with our nominators about whether the 5 year limitation is fair – let us know what you think.
Coming soon…Behind the prize – what’s the point of a long list?