The Young Masters Art Prize is the brainchild of respected American gallerist, Cynthia Corbett. In 2008 Cynthia had the idea of establishing the Young Masters Art Prize with the aim of celebrating artists who pay homage to the skill and traditions of the past; knowing that young artists today are not afraid, unlike their predecessors, to look back at art history and its lessons.
“With a bit of luck and a lot of hard work we actually made it happen, and the first Young Masters Art Prize in 2009 proved to be a huge success with artists, curators, judges and the public”. Roy Bolton, Director of Sphinx Fine Art, in an Introduction to the Young Masters 2009 catalogue, called the result “an instantly refreshing exhibition …with more than a nod to the history of creativity.”
We have begun to witness the art community embracing the past and drawing inspiration from the Old Masters. The zeitgeist has evolved, with numerous examples now including: the 54th Venice Biennale (2011), where works by Titian were exhibited alongside contemporary art, the emergence of the inaugural Frieze Masters 2012 and most recently at Art Basel 2012. Both the academic art world and commercial dealers seem to be recognizing this as an important trend. See recent article in the Art Newspaper “Art of the past has lessons for the present” By Georgina Adam, Gareth Harris and Riah Pryor. From Art Basel daily edition, Published online: 13 June 2012 http://bit.ly/OxuCSF.
The New York-based art adviser Lisa Schiff sees this as a growing trend, quoted in the June edition of the Art Newspaper http://ow.ly/d/IeZ, “The public knowledge of Jeff Koons’s personal collecting of Old Masters, the mounting interest of contemporary collectors in visiting fairs like Maastricht, and the forthcoming Frieze Masters: I think there is a desire to look back—way back”.
Young Masters Art Prize captures the spirit of this revival. But why is this happening now and what will happen next? What prompted contemporary artists as well as their dealers and curators to accept it? As a former economist, before studying art history at Christies, Cynthia feels that the economic crisis has had its impact. “In these unstable times we look for an aura of reassurance and security. Old Masters are resonant in the art world because they offer art historical tradition and years of acclaim.”
But it is not just a question of security. Young Masters Art Prize celebrates the return of hitherto unfashionable concepts: skill, craft, and dare we say it, beauty?
Godfrey Barker, well renowned art historian, critic and Chair Judge for Young Masters 2012, says, “the old has something to offer the new – the past has the important lesson to teach that skill is the great enabler. If you gain a skill you can say more and achieve more and be a more powerful artist”.
Let’s hope that this wave of embracing the art historical tradition will continue. Young Masters are here to stay.