Curator of Museum M Leuven and president of the Association of Belgian Art Critics (AICA) Eva Wittocx, lends years of experience to narrowing the list of finalists as a member of the pre-selection jury of this year’s Young Belgian Art Prize. With limited time and myriad portfolios to go through, she talks about seeking ‘triggers and intrigues’ amongst diverging artists and works; a task only a trained eye can bring to a good end.
Photograph courtesy of Eva Wittocx
Generally speaking, what would you say characterises this year’s shortlist?
As part of the Belgian pre-jury we were not selecting the final shortlist. In the final selection the international jury chose from artists working in a wide range of media, from painting to photography, installation, film and live performance.
Can you talk to us about the selection process?
Looking at hundreds of dossiers gives you an insight into the work of a diverse group of artists working today. There’s a very wide range that is being presented, from figurative painting, ceramics, sculptures in marble, to very conceptual proposals. There’s only a limited amount of time you can spend looking at each of the many dossiers. Although not everything is interesting, it’s a great way to discover young artists. When making our selection, the pre-jury wanted to give the international jury a good view of the artists working in Belgium today. Some artists we wouldn’t select ourselves perhaps, but we believed that the international jury would need to see a particular dossier and make up their own mind.
What do you particularly look for in an artist’s portfolio?
Within the YBAP jury, many different things come together: you look at the portfolio and how this artist represents him/herself, you look at the work, mostly through images and some text, and you read the specific proposal for the YBAP. The ambition, angle and nature of the proposal play a key role. Sometimes you check an artist’s curriculum, their background and previous exhibitions. Some dossiers need quite some time, others are decided upon in a couple of seconds… It’s hard to describe what one looks for. You look for something that triggers you, intrigues you, and makes you curious to know more. It is hard to describe what you look for in advance; you know when you find it.
If anything, what would you have liked to see more of?
Although the price was once officially called ‘Young Painting’ there weren’t that many interesting painters that presented themselves. Video was not very often presented as well.
What, to you, is the role of the YBAP? How significant is the fact that it is open to foreign artists residing in Belgium?
It has been many years that the YBAP is open to all artists with a connection to Belgium. I think this is very important: it’s for everyone for whom Belgium is the centre of his or her life and practice. We received applications from artists with divergent nationalities, which was also reflected in the final selection and which really mirrors the diversity of Belgium and Brussels today.
The YPBA is a kind of biennal moment for the young art scene in Belgium. It’s good the final selection is made by outsiders (people not living in Belgium), by curators or art professionals who have no real connection with these artists. They can look at the work and the dossiers in an open-minded or fresh way.The Young Belgian Art Prize finalists are exhibited at BOZAR until September 13th, 2015. Feature Image: Emmanuelle Quertain. Courtesy of the artist.