Judging a major art show: Jay Taylor on the RBSA Prize Exhibition

What makes judges tick? How do they select works for exhibition? And how do shows like the RBSA Prize Exhibition contribute to the national art scene? We asked the judges of our forthcoming show, and Jay Taylor shared his thoughts with ART BLOG…

What was the standard of entries like this year, and were you excited by the variety?

I went into this judging with a preconception of what would be entered but was surprised by the range and depth of entries. Emalee (Beddoes-Davis, our judge from Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery) and I genuinely struggled with selection, as standards were high across the board.

I can honestly say that I didn’t see a single ‘bad’ piece of art. Our selection boiled down to personal preference and a desire to select a fair range of work from all backgrounds of art.

Saranjit Birdi, ‘Immersion’

Are there any major themes you detected in entries?

There is a clear love for the craft of art in this competition, which I enjoyed seeing. For me, the big theme is ‘Fun’.

Whether it’s the artist’s passion in the process of making the art or what I predict the audiences reaction will be, I feel like this show will be an enjoyable experience all round and is unashamedly proud of that fact. 

How do you think the exhibition will come together, in the room? 

I honestly don’t know, but that is what is exciting about the selection. We chose such a diverse range of work, and it will be an interesting task displaying the work together. Rather than going for a obvious direction for the show, we opted to select a very different, diverse exhibition, which caters to an eclectic taste. 

Pauline Bradley, ‘Wild Swimmer’

What is the importance of shows like the RBSA Prize, for the region and at national level?

Being a teacher in the academic world and being an artist in the art world, I sometimes feel like there is a contemporary shame attached to making aesthetically pleasing work. There can be this academic rabbit hole that young artists can get lost down, which can make many lose their way.

I spend way too much of my day having to think, analyse, plan, be practical, be overwhelmed with information, and I like to escape through art, so I can feel without having to write an essay to explain why.

I like the wonder of just looking at art and not knowing why I’m having a reaction to it, whether that is a image that is unexplainably beautiful, or something that moves me emotionally, or makes me laugh or makes me sad or angry.

This is what shows like the RBSA do and it’s important to keep that alive both regionally and nationally. 

Visit the Exhibition!

The Prize Exhibition runs from May 23 until June 22 June, and features more than 130 works of contemporary art across a range of media. Many works are for sale and our Gallery staff will be happy to assist you on your visit to the show.

Framed art isn’t for everyone, so we have a wide range of unframed prints available to view in browsers at the Gallery, on the ground floor.



The RBSA would like to thank the following donors for their generous support of the Prize Exhibition:

GMC Trust First Prize – £1,000 cash

Alec Morison Trust Second Prize – £500 cash

Harris Moore Third Prize – £200 bespoke canvas/framing

The Artist Magazine Prize – 2 years free subscription

Jackson Art Supplies Prize for Young Artist – £125 Voucher for an exhibitor aged 35 or under

Tim Dabson Consulting Prize for 3D work- £100 cash



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