‘Best ever’ Open Art competition

Neil Lawson Baker.
Neil Lawson Baker.

The CEO of the Chichester-based National Open Art Competition is predicting that this year’s event may well be the best ever.

Neil Lawson Baker is delighted to have received around 2,200 entries this year, the highest so far.

A top team of judges met in London last week to whittle the entries down to 500 online. The next stage, on September 17, will see the works themselves brought to Goodwood when the judges will determine those which will make it through to the competition’s exhibition stage. Winners in a number of categories will also be decided.

The Chichester Art Trust will then present 16th National Open Art Exhibition in Chichester’s Minerva Theatre from October 11-21. The show will feature more than a hundred works, including prize-winners in sections including paintings, drawings, photography, original prints, digital art and wall-hung installations. Entry is free; and all works will be for sale.

Following the Minerva Theatre show, the exhibition transfers to The Prince’s Foundation Gallery in London from October 25-November 2. The winning works will then be shown at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester from November 6-18.

The timing offers more than a month in which to see the show - great news for Neil.

Last year the exhibition ran in the Minerva over Christmas, but had to be brought forward this year because of the Chichester Festival Theatre’s redevelopment works.

Sex, Psychology and Art is the 4th Chichester Art Lecture, exploring the passions, attitudes and art of the Freud family at the Minerva Theatre on Sunday, October 21 at 7pm. Art critic and artist Estelle Lovatt from the Independent Radio Arts will introduce three speakers.

Sharon Kivland from Sheffield Hallam University will discuss Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis; Martin Gayford will share his experience of sitting for Lucian Freud, one of the most influential artists of his generation and Jane McAdam Freud, Lucian Freud’s daughter, will discuss her personal relationship with her father and her own career.

The evening includes an interval of 20 minutes where guests can view the works of artists involved in the National Open Art Exhibition, and the event concludes with a Q&A session.

Neil is delighted that the London exhibition which then follows will be opened by Grayson Perry. He is pleased too that the whole venture has been praised by the Saatchi Gallery Art & Music magazine as unique in its “commitment to openness, fairness and diversity” - another feather in its cap for an exhibition which has really gone places since Neil masterminded its relaunch on a more openly national scale a few years ago.

Neil believes the quality of the judges has been a key factor in the exhibition’s rise, bringing with it a rise in the quality of the work.

“The chairman of the judges is usually a judge from the year before and briefs the judges on what they are looking for. They are trying to find the best work in the various categories. They are looking for that je ne sais quoi that makes a work of art brilliant. They are looking for technical quality, for innovation - for serious works of work where people have put in time and effort.”