Great showing - despite Brexit blip

National Open Art, one of the UK's leading art competitions, celebrates its 20th birthday with a two-week exhibition in Chichester where the competition began.

Robertson Juliet - Going My Way - Fine Art Award for the Best Artist
Robertson Juliet - Going My Way - Fine Art Award for the Best Artist

The National Open Art Winners’ Exhibition will come to Pallant House Gallery between December 6 and 18 after another excellent year for the event.

Amanda Kings, competition and exhibitions director, said she was delighted with the quality of the works which were entered – even if there was a slight Brexit slump in numbers.

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“I think a lot of people were concentrating on other things because of Brexit, and the deadline was looming for the competition. Some people didn’t get it all together in time.

King Chris - Ellen and Susan - 76901 - 7334_16686 - Naylor Best Photograph Award

“But the quality of the work is really good. I think we had just shy of 3,800 entries. The trouble is you reach a plateau. You need to be reaching out to a wider audience. People enter and then when they don’t get selected, they don’t try again. We need to be trying to draw them back in.”

170 works were selected – a relatively-small percentage of entries, but as Amanda says, it’s a figure in line with competitions generally.

Retired computer sales executive Juliet Robinson from Loxwood near Horsham was the winner of this year’s competition. Her abstract oil painting Going My Way? will feature alongside 35 prizewinning paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, wall-hung installations and digital art pieces in the exhibition’s Pallant House showing.

All artworks were judged anonymously by a panel which this year included Vogue’s Robin Muir, Royal Academician David Remfry and the Tate’s Fiona Kingsman.

Simmonds Lee - Maybe I'm Wasting My Young Years -MS Amlin Best Young Artists Award

Other notable winners this year include 20-year-old Lee Simmonds, who was awarded the Best Young Artist Prize for his self-portrait Maybe I’m Wasting My Young Years. The piece in question has just helped him secure a place at Oxford University’s Ruskin School of Art.

Chris King won the 20th National Open Art Photography Prize for Ellen and Susan – 76901, an image of his wife’s late grandparent’s Texan living room.

Amanda said the competition was delighted to have reached its 20th anniversary – but was intending to make more of its 21st next year.

Sadly, she can’t see the Chichester leg of the exhibition ever going back into the Minerva where it was seen by large numbers of theatre-goers passing through and also had the advantage of being free.

“The Minerva is never going to happen again. It’s the fact that the theatre has moved on. The lease they have given to the brasserie would not let us back in there for two weeks. It’s a big loss. Now we concentrate on the winners’ exhibition at Pallant House. If we could do the Minerva again, we would look at it. It’s the politics. But we did ask for it to be free at Pallant House, but it is difficult for them to let people go in free to Room 11 and then come back again. But we still continue to do well. We have still got lots of ideas that we are moving forward with.”

Neil Lawson Baker, chairman of NOA, echoed the point: “As we celebrate National Open Art’s 20th annual competition it feels wonderful to be coming home to Chichester where we first began. Each year, NOA presents a snapshot of the very best art being produced today. We hope it will inspire everyone who comes to see it.”

For more information, visit

Pallant House Gallery opening times: Tuesday-Saturday, 10am-5pm; Thursday, 10am-8pm;

Sunday/Bank Holidays, 11am-5pm; Mondays, closed.

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