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John Moores Painting Prize: debating art

22 April 2014 by Laura

Three peple looking at a painting

(Left to right) Jurors, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Tom Benson and Tim Marlow

It’s been a busy few weeks for the John Moores Painting Prize. We recently announced the longlist, or those 52 artists who have been selected for the exhibition. This was the culmination of an arduous judging process which began with more than 2,500 entries

This year I spent some time in the judging room and got to see first hand how the selection is made. 

It was interesting to see the differing responses the paintings provoked. The paintings were brought before the judges in a sort of ‘conveyor belt system’, carried by a member, or in the case of the larger works by several members, of the handling team. Some works caused the judges to leap out of their seat and inspect more closely. For others they remained still, letting the work wash over them from a distance. Several paintings caused intense, prolonged debate while for some the judgement – either positive or negative – was instant.

By the second day the judges wanted to see the remaining works together. They were organised roughly into genres and the judges moved between the various sections. Each work was judged on its own merit but what was also clear was that the judges were beginning to really think about the exhibition as a whole and how the selected paintings would work together within it.

At the very end of the last day the wider team, myself included, were sent out of the judging space. It was crunch time and the judges were picking their prize winners. Three peple looking at a painting

Sitting outside the room we discussed our favourites and took a guess at which the judges would choose. Almost two hours later we were let back in. From the 52 paintings they had chosen four prize winners and one first prize winner. I looked around, half expecting some sort of glow to appear from the winning work but there was nothing to give it away.

It was a little eerie walking through the space knowing somewhere there was a painting which was about to change somebody’s life, enabling them to join the ranks of an incredible history of previous John Moores winners, such as Peter Doig, David Hockney, Sir Peter Blake and Mary Martin.

The John Moores Painting Prize opens to the public on 5 July, as part of the Liverpool Biennial, with the announcement of five prize winners.

The first prize winner of the John Moores 2014, sponsored by David M. Robinson will be announced in September 2014.

Behind the scenes video

Watch Tim Marlow and Zeng Fanzhi giving their thoughts on the paintings they’ve seen:

“It is definitely necessary for artists to have their own point of view on society” - Zeng Fanzhi

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