Art exhibitions are constantly evolving. The traditional Salons of the 19th century have been rewritten, with pop-up galleries, online shows and Instagram-friendly immersive spaces making art more accessible than ever before. Record-breaking visitor figures are being reached. Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama attracted more than 120,000 visitors to Cleveland in 2018. Huge crowds queued up to take a snapshot of the social-media hotspot Infinity Mirrors, adding the images to their own curated feeds.
But what does this “snap-and-share” culture mean for the future of contemporary shows? This influx of images can be overwhelming. Constant selfies can take away from the physical experience of an artwork. The ING Discerning Eye Exhibition – returning to London’s Mall Galleries this month – offers a compromise. It retains the strongest elements of the time-honoured gallery experience whilst responding to the latest trends, offering viewers a tangible experience. As 2019 selector Gill Button notes: “Artwork is ultimately about its presence in reality. Initiatives such as the ING Discerning Eye Exhibition – that offer a real platform – are vital in helping artists take a step outside the safety of the digital bubble.”
Button is one of six selectors working together to make the show unique, offering emerging names the chance to step away from online and exhibit in the real world. The ING Discerning Eye judging process is diverse and democratic: practising artists, collectors and critics choose stand-out pieces from the annual open submission. This results in six distinctive shows within the whole, each with a characteristic flavour. Emerging and renowned names are displayed side-by-side, reflecting the increasingly accessible nature of art today – and a new approach to curation.
The subject matter on view at Mall Galleries is wide-reaching, reflecting contemporary experiences. The 450 featured works, all for sale, explore a range of themes including physicality, history, identity and memory – tapping into the zeitgeist. Painting, drawing, print, sculpture, photography and film come together, highlighting a breadth of approaches. This has appeal for a new generation of audiences. It holds up a mirror to society, providing affordable artworks that are relevant to life in today’s world.
The ING Discerning Eye Exhibition runs 14 – 24 November at Mall Galleries, London, and all artworks are for sale. Find out more here.
Lead image: Henry Jay Kamara, Forbidden Fruit. Courtesy of the artist and Parker Harris.