Creative dynamo launches major new art prize in York

Work by artists who entered the first Aesthetica Arts Prize
Work by artists who entered the first Aesthetica Arts Prize
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A major new art prize has been launched in York. Arts correspondent Nick Ahad talks to the woman in charge.

She’s a bit of a ‘do-er’, Cherie Federico.

The woman who set up an international arts magazine from her bedroom is about to launch yet another of her big ideas. This time it’s all about giving a leg-up to visual artists at the start of their careers.

The first Aesthetica Art Prize joins Federico’s ever growing portfolio of projects. Federico, a ballsy New Yorker who in 2007 moved to England to study at York St John University, is the human dynamo that has made an international success of an arts magazine.

She then used the cachet of that York-based magazine to start a film festival – the second edition of which, held at the end of last year, attracted entries from literally all over the world.

Now she’s setting up a new art prize.

“People keep asking what else I’m going to be doing, or what’s coming next, but this really is it,” says Federico. It’s hard to believe.

“No, really. The magazine, the film festival and now this. That really is enough.”

We’ll see. For now the first Aesthetica Art Prize is well and truly underway, with the results of the prize announced at the launch last night.

Inviting entries from around the world, the first prize went to Australian artist Damien O’Mara, whose 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,” according to the judges.

The student prize went to Slade School of Fine Art graduate Poppy Whatmore, for her instillation piece The Family Meal.

The exhibition of the winners’ work and that of the eight shortlisted artists, continues until April 28 at York St Mary’s, a medieval church in the heart of the city. Federico says: “This is the sixth year we’ve run the prize, but previously it was all in the magazine. I always felt that I wanted the artists, many of who are in the early stages of their careers, to have something more tangible as a result of the competition, so an exhibition seemed like the natural way to achieve that.

“The great thing about launching this year’s prize as an exhibition for the first time was that the venue is wonderful. It’s in this beautiful ancient church, but the work we are displaying is so contemporary. The juxtaposition makes for something really special.”

This year’s prize attracted thousands of entries from around the world, which were then whittled down to 100 on a longlist and then the final shortlist of eight who will now make up the exhibition which runs at the venue until the end of April.

Previous finalists include Julia Vogl, who after winning the Aesthetica Art Prize in 2012, went on to win the Catlin Art Prize and was shortlisted for New Sensations, the Saatchi Gallery and Channel Four Prize and has exhibited at Zabludowicz Collection.

The Aesthetica Art Prize, York St Mary’s, to April 28.

Prize that gives unique opportunity to emerging artists

World renowned British sculptor and art prize judge Kate MccGwire says: “I feel honoured to have been invited to judge the Aesthetica Art Prize, it has been a privilege to experience the breadth of sculpture that the contemporary art scene has to offer and I look forward to seeing the development of these gifted artists over the coming years.”

The impressive list of judges for this year’s prize include Laura Turner, Curator at York Art Gallery; Frances Guy, head of collections at The Hepworth Wakefield; and Neeta Madahar, renowned British photographer.