The following is an open letter from John Kelly the artist to Peter Murray concerning the Crawford Open - and the thorny issue of selection for open submission shows in Ireland. We're all familiar with the random nature of the RHA's selection policy. This letter seems to be suggesting that cliques and coteries prevail in these circumstances. Judge for yourself.
I have concerns about the recent selection of work for ‘The sleep of reason’ exhibition, which despite the entry form disclaimer and the denial of further correspondence, should be opened to public debate. For advertising it as the ‘Crawford Open’, with international jurors Enrique Juncosa (Irish Museum of Modern Art) and Frances Morris (Tate Modern) gave the impression it was open to all, with each artist paying for their work to be assessed without prejudice or favour. However the facts as shown below suggest otherwise.
It is worth noting that although submissions from Cork based artists would have made up a significant percentage of the entries, not one artist, currently living and working in Cork survived the cull of 750 entries. I believe if we look at the selected artists we find the reason why. For more than half of the fifteen artists selected are connected in some way to the institutions that the two jurors represent and of the rest, nearly all are art students being given an opportunity (Michael Gurhy, the only artist who might be considered to be living in Cork was amongst this group and is currently at St Martins in London).
For example Mai Yamashita and Naoto Kobayashi from Germany exhibited at the Tate Modern earlier this year. Frances Morris is responsible for international art at the Tate.
The other Kobayashi in the exhibition, Fumiko did not exhibit at the Tate and is not related to Naoto but all three attended the same art-college in Japan and later in Germany together. They have also exhibited together and Mai and Naoto informed me they are good friends with Fumiko. Maybe their selection, like their name, is pure coincidence because stranger things have happened.
It is no coincidence that Frances Morris is aware of selected artist Paul McAree, because for a number of years he worked alongside her as an administrator in ‘Exhibitions and Displays’ at the Tate Modern. McAree also started the Colony gallery in Birmingham where he is a Director, curator and where he exhibits another selected artist, Michelle Deignan.
The other juror, Enrique Juncosa would be very aware of Tom Molloy, Andrew Vickery and Abigail O’Brien for they all have work within the IMMA collection and Martin Healy is currently undertaking a residency at the museum.
Five of the other artists are all students or have graduated within the last year. Four have also had other careers, being an investment banker, a visual merchandiser, graphic designer and one as an accountant/gallery director (another pattern?). Except for one they are all London based art students.
The Tate Gallery was very much part of the London ‘putsch’ that re-branded the UK as ‘Cool Britannia’ in the late nineties. A beneficiary of this re-branding are the London art schools that each year reap significant amounts of income, from overseas students who dream of being ‘discovered’ in the annual college exhibitions. ‘The sleep of reason’ selection simply reinforces this cultural lottery where international students pay thousands to enter the competition.
I am in no way suggesting that the artists and students are not worthy of being included and in some ways the selection process is understandable in reinforcing the two institutions previous curatorial relationships whilst reiterating London’s position as being the centre of the mythical ‘art-world’. However once the connections and patterns of selection are revealed it does lead to the question of just how open was the Crawford ‘Open’? And were we charged a fee or did we make a donation?
Maybe the biggest coincidence of all is the title of the exhibition, for I understand it originates from Goya’s series of etchings titled ‘Los Caprichos’. The most famous of these etchings is "El sueno de la razon produce monstruos": the sleep of reason brings forth monsters. Goya, who having applied several times to become the court painter, only to be rejected, described the series as being based on "the innumerable foibles and follies to be found in any civilized society, and from the common prejudices and deceitful practices which custom, ignorance, or self-interest have made usual . . .”
I look forward to a response but would understand if you invoke the entry form disclaimer.
Cc: Enrique Juncosa
Cc: France Morris
Cc: Dawn Williams