Aesthetica Art Prize Winners Announced and Exhibition Open

Winners of the prestigious Aesthetica Art Prize were announced last night at the preview of the Aesthetica Art Prize Exhibition at York St Mary’s, York. Damien O’Mara was awarded the Main Prize and Poppy Whatmore collected the Student Prize. These two outstanding artists fought off competition from thousands of entries, 100 longlisted artists and finally the remaining 8 shortlisted to claim the coveted titles.

The Art Prize is a platform for emerging contemporary artists from across the world to bring their work to a wider audience. Damien and Poppy’s work will be exhibited along with the 6 other shortlisted entries in the enchanting setting of York St Mary’s, York Art Gallery’s contemporary art space, from 8 March – 28 April.

Other shortlisted artists include: Mary Humphrey, Photographic & Digital Art; Kyunghee Park, Three Dimensional Design & Sculpture; Clare Walter, Painting & Drawing; Caroline Jane Harris, Painting & Drawing; Sara Brannan, Video, Installation & Performance and Hyung-gyu Kim, Video, Installation & Performance

The exhibition offers a unique chance to view Damien and Poppy’s work together, along with the remaining 6 outstanding finalists in this year’s Prize. Together these pieces beautifully demonstrate the range and quality of current artistic practice, combining to showcase an international breadth of exceptional work. The works collectively highlight modern concerns, ranging from the environment, capitalism, traditional views on women to marginalised communities. Showcased in the medieval setting of York St Mary’s, the exhibition challenges the notion of the “white cube” and delivers a unique experience, uniting unmissable works by international rising stars of the art world in a new visual context.

Australian artist Damien O’Mara’s winning entry Airport was chosen for its acute depiction of the demands of corporate life, with its unique focus on masculinity and the representation of men in today’s society – a topic not often discussed or explored. These bold themes are investigated through the juxtaposition of suited male figures incongruously situated in locations “off limits” or “out of bounds” to the average, professional man. The works interrogate the value of role and position in the attainment of a meaningful, authentic existence, and the suitability of traditional paths in achieving those goals.

The Student Prize went to Slade School of Fine Art Graduate Poppy Whatmore, for her instillation piece The Family Meal. In her monumental structure, Poppy re-appropriates functional, domestic objects to subvert their meaning, exploring themes connected with the human condition and our personal relationships with each other. Aesthetica Art Prize judges were particularly impressed with Poppy’s bold use of space, and her ability to evoke nostalgia through careful assemblage of otherwise mundane household items.

The awards were announced to an audience of industry figures, fellow artists and special guests at the unveiling of the much anticipated Aesthetica Art Prize exhibition on Thursday 7 March. Cherie Federico, Editor of Aesthetica Magazine and Art Prize judge, reflects on the winning pieces: “I am delighted to bring these artists’ works to the city. Moreover, the nature of many of the pieces comments upon life in the 21st century, evoking a deeper meaning, and reflection of the world in which we live.”

With this being the Aesthetica Art Prize’s inaugural exhibition, there is an added sense of anticipation and excitement surrounding this year’s winners, and the success they may experience subsequently. World renowned British sculptor and Art Prize judge Kate MccGwire was deeply impressed by the quality of work entered into the contest this year, and is confident of the further success the 2012 winners are yet to enjoy: “I feel honoured to have been invited to judge the Aesthetica Art Prize, and look forward to seeing the development of these gifted artists over the coming years.”

Previous finalist Julia Vogl experienced a wealth of success after winning the Aesthetica Art Prize 2011, going on to win the Catlin Art Prize, exhibiting at the Zabludowicz Collection and being shortlisted for New Sensations – Saatchi Gallery and Channel 4′s Prize. The instillation artist describes the positive impact the Prize has had on her career: “It was been a terrific boost to my confidence, especially at a time where being an artist is fiercely competitive and hard to finance.”

The impressive list of judges who selected this year’s winners comprises of influential art figures and curators: Cherie Federico, Editor of Aesthetica Magazine; Laura Turner, Curator at York Art Gallery; Frances Guy, Head of Collection and Exhibitions at The Hepworth Wakefield; Kate MccGwire, internationally renowned British Sculptor and Neeta Madahar, renowned British photography represented by the Purdy Hicks Gallery, London.

A Free Public Talk Programme will accompany the Art Prize exhibition. Special events include:

  • 20 March – Julia Vogl, 2011 Art Prize Winner, discusses her practice and the importance of art prizes for emerging artists.
  • 27 March – Laura Tuner, York Art Gallery Curator, and Aesthetica Editor, Cherie Federico, address the selection process, curating the show and the shortlisted artists’ works.
  • 3 April – Dr Claire Hind from York St John University talks about performance art.
  • 17 April – A conversation with Frances Guy, Head of Collection and Exhibitions at The Hepworth Wakefield.
  • 24 April – Shortlisted artist Mary Humphrey talks about her fascinating change of career to photography.

Each of the diverse pieces of work on show will be available to view in the Aesthetica Art Prize publication, on sale at the exhibition, online and at select galleries nationwide.

York St Mary’s is open from 10am-5pm and admission is free. For more information visit or