Middlesborough Institute of Modern Art and Jacqueline Poncelet win £ 100,000 Freelands Award


The sixth annual Freelands Prize was awarded to the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (MIMA). This allows the North Yorkshire institution to host a major solo exhibition dedicated to Belgian artist Jacqueline Poncelet which will take place in 2024.

The £ 100,000 prize was presented by the Freelands Foundation to Poncelet and Elinor Morgan, Head of Public Programs at MIMA, at a full dinner held last week in the exhibition galleries at the Freelands Foundation headquarters in Primrose Hill, North London.

The annual award is given to a British arts organization based outside London to present a major performance, including significant new work, by a mid-career artist whose work may not yet have received accolades or the public recognition it deserves. It was established in 2016 by philanthropist Elisabeth Murdoch, who launched the foundation in 2015 “to give more people the chance to engage and enjoy the arts in the UK, with a particular focus on education “.

The former Freelands Award winners are: Fruitmarket Gallery with Jacqueline Donachie in 2016; Nottingham Contemporary with Lis Rhodes in 2017; Veronica Ryan and Spike Island in 2018; Hepworth Wakefield and Hannah Starkey in 2019 and MK Gallery with Ingrid Pollard in 2020.

Jacqueline Poncelet, here and there n ° 12 (2009-10). Courtesy of the artist

Poncelet will receive £ 25,000 of the £ 100,000 prize, and his MIMA exhibition will feature ceramics, sculpture, painting and textiles as well as aspects of his large-scale architectural work in an investigation into one more career. 50 years old. There will also be newly commissioned work engaging the region’s manufacturing traditions, which will include linen production, rag rugs and metalwork.

“Over the past 50 years, Jacqueline Poncelet has demonstrated a quiet tenacity and a commitment to learning and doing that we at MIMA very much admire,” Morgan said. “Winning the Freelands Award galvanizes us as a team and for the communities, students and artists we work with,” she added. For his part, Poncelet, who studied at Wolverhampton College of Art and the Royal College of Art in London, said he wanted to “hand over the motif to Middlesbrough”.

The selection jury for this year’s award included Sepake Angiama, artistic director of Iniva (the Institute of International Visual Arts); Donachie; Robert Leckie, director of Spike Island; and Courtney J Martin, director of the Yale Center for British Art in Connecticut.

In addition to the announcement of the Freelands Award, the dinner also marked the launch of the Foundation’s sixth research report on ‘The Representation of Women Artists in Britain’. This annual report is written and researched by artist and scholar Kate McMillan, and the 2021 iteration features the latest data and essays that explore the intersectional impact of social class and racial origin on female artists.

The 2021 report aims to ‘challenge the British malaise around discussions of gender, race and class’ and its findings further confirm the importance of encouraging and rewarding institutions to show the work of older women, and in particular women from all walks of life.

Because although they make up nearly 20% of the UK’s population, the report states that apart from Gus Casely-Hayford, the recently appointed director (male) of V&A East, “there are no black people. and Bruns who run major institutions in or outside London. and offers the grim statistic that “only 16% of public art commissions went to black and brown artists, and none of those completed in 2020”. For women, it’s even more difficult, with the report concluding that “for black and brown working-class women, a creative life is too often out of reach.”

So despite the valuable work done by Freelands and the increasingly diverse exhibition programs of many of our institutions, it seems that there is still a long way to go to prevent the British art world from being dominated by the privileged, the men and the pale.


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