Winners of the Aesthetica Art Prize Announced

German artist Sybille Neumeyer was announced as the winner of the Main Prize for the Aesthetica Art Prize 2014 at the exhibition preview last night. Her stunning light installation Song for the Last Queen (2013) is comprised of 7,614 bees – one eighth of the colony – that were collected from a naturally collapsed bee hive and placed as a rhythm of black spots in honey creating a silent score.

The work received high praise from Laura Turner, Curator of Art at York Art Gallery, as “a very powerful piece with a strong visual appeal. I admire the artist’s carefully considered approach and the pertinent environmental issues it addresses.” As the title suggests, the work pays homage to the life of bees, and refers to the threatening endangerment to a species with a vital role in maintaining our ecosystem. Investigating our responsibility to the environment, Neumeyer recounts “each bee was carefully placed without fixing solution in a vile of honey – the amount one bee can produce in a lifetime.”

The evening continued to celebrate excellence in contemporary art as rising star Harriet Lewars took home the Student Prize with her monumental sculpture Frustrum Super Planum Cum Filia Lyrae (2013) that explores the interface between art and music. The piece invites interaction from its audience, as Lewars explains: “Frustrums are truncated cones built in metal, which act as a soundboard from which many strings are stretched and can be plucked.”

Cherie Federico, Director of the Aesthetica Art Prize and Editor of Aesthetica Magazine, added “the potential for performance from a sculptural artwork is intriguing, and in Lewars’ piece this ‘performance’ is both musical and theatrical.” Frustrum’s dual presence both visually and aurally as it was played by guests throughout the night added a new dynamic to the exhibition space.

York St Mary’s was filled with excitement as guests journeyed around the exhibits glazed in the last of the natural light filtering through the stained glass windows of the church, now transformed into York Art Gallery’s contemporary art space. A further six shortlisted artworks comprise the group show in the categories of Photographic and Digital Art, Painting and Drawing, Three Dimensional Design and Sculpture, and Video, Installation and Performance, selected from over 3,000 entries.

These include Deb Covell’s Black and White Paintings (2013), which have been described as “graceful minimalism” by Robert Clark of the Guardian; Inés Molina Navea’s compelling photographic series 541 días (2013) previously showcased in Spain, Argentina, Peru, the USA and Germany; and Ingrid Hu’s bowl display Longplayer (2013), who worked as a designer for Lubetkin-winning Heatherwick Studio for seven years before setting up her own practice. Remaining artists are Elke Finkenauer, Julia Weißenberg and Amedeo Abello & Federico Morando.

The event saw a variety of guests descend upon the gallery, including renowned British painter Start Semple, curators from The Hepworth Wakefield and international artists travelling from New Zealand, Chile, Germany and across the UK, as well as York’s civic party, Sheriff Brian Watson and the Sheriff’s Lady Marcia Watson. All were drawn to the Aesthetica Art Prize exhibition as one of the key places in the UK for engaging with new talent.

Several events will run alongside the exhibition from free lunchtime talks, Art Walks and families activities to the People’s Choice Award. All 100 shortlisted and longlisted artists’ works are available to view in the Aesthetica Art Prize Anthology 2014, on sale at the exhibition, online and at select galleries nationwide.

Aesthetica Art Prize partners and sponsors include York Museums Trust, York St John University, Barber Titleys Solicitors, The Hepworth Wakefield, Winsor & Newton, Thomas & Paul Gallery and Prestel. The winner of the Main Prize receives £1,000, 6 months studio space courtesy of the Thomas & Paul Gallery, art supplies courtesy of Winsor & Newton, and a collection of art books from Prestel. The Student Prize wins £500, art mentorship sessions courtesy of the Thomas & Paul Gallery, art supplies courtesy of Winsor & Newton, and a collection of art books from Prestel.

1. Sybille Neumeyer, Song for the Last Queen (2013), courtesy of Jim Poyner and Aesthetica.