Press Releases

Ragnar Kjartansson with National Museum Wales and Artes Mundi shortlisted for award

The four shortlisted museums and their nominated artists for the Contemporary Art Society Annual Award 2015, generously supported since its inception by the Sfumato Foundation, have been announced. The nominees are:

  • Pablo Helguera with the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art

  • Ragnar Kjartansson with Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales and Artes Mundi

  • Stephen Sutcliffe and Graham Eatough with The Whitworth, part of The University of Manchester, in partnership with LUX

  • Katrina Palmer with The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery in collaboration with the Henry Moore Institute

Now in its seventh year, the prestigious £40,000 prize is one of the country's highest value contemporary art awards. This unique commissioning award is presented by the Contemporary Art Society to a museum or public gallery in the UK with a nominated artist. The prize offers the winning museum the opportunity to commission a major new artwork for their permanent collection by an artist who is not yet well represented in museum collections in this country.

The winner will be announced at a special ceremony at the Barbican Centre in London on 23 November 2015.  The presenter of the 2015 award will be announced later in the year, with previous high-profiled presenters including Grayson Perry, Cornelia Parker, Jeremy Deller, Mark Wallinger and Martin Creed.

The members of the independent Annual Award 2015 jury are: Annie Fletcher (Chief Curator, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven), Polly Staple (Director, Chisenhale Gallery), Michael Archer (Critic and Professor of Art, Goldsmiths College) and Haroon Mirza (Artist).

Christine Takengny, Curator, Museum Acquisitions at the Contemporary Art Society, said:

The Contemporary Art Society Annual Award provides the rare opportunity for our member museums to commission an entirely new artwork for their collection and the shortlisted museums this year all propose to develop a new and rewarding working relationship with the artist they put forward. The selecting panel was excited by the interdisciplinary nature of much of the proposed work and the ambition of all the artists and museums to push their practice in a new direction to develop a work that will become of national significance.

For all press enquiries, including tickets to the 23 November award reception, please contact:

Marcus Crofton, Communications Manager, Contemporary Art Society  +44 (0)20 7017 8412


Notes to Editors:


The Contemporary Art Society champions the collecting of outstanding contemporary art and craft in the UK. Since 1910 the charity has donated thousands of works by living artists to museums, from Picasso, Bacon, Hepworth and Moore in their day, through to the influential artists of our times. Sitting at the heart of cultural life in the UK, the Contemporary Art Society brokers philanthropic support for the benefit of museums and their audiences across the entire country. Their work ensures that the story of art continues to be told now and for future generations.


One of the highest value contemporary art prizes in the country, the Contemporary Art Society Annual Award for Museums supports a UK-based museum or public gallery to work with an artist of their choice to commission a new work that, once completed, will remain within the museum’s permanent collection.

The £40,000 prize has a major impact on both the winning museum and their chosen artist: for the winning museum, the award allows the acquisition of an ambitious work of contemporary art of national importance, and for the winning artist (who may be showing widely nationally and internationally but whose work is not represented in collections in this country), the award is a stepping stone to greater visibility and provides access to national and international audiences.

Applications are welcomed from museums that have not yet commissioned new work as well as from those with more experience. The award is open to all museums in the Contemporary Art Society’s Museums Membership network and artists anywhere in the world. £1000 is made available to all short-listed museums to work up the detailed proposal including the artist’s time and contribution. 

Previous recipients of the award include: The Graves Art Gallery, Museums Sheffield (with artist Kateřina Šedá) in 2009; the Hepworth Wakefield and Wolverhampton Art Gallery (with Turner Prize nominated artist Luke Fowler) in 2010; Nottingham Castle Museum & Art Gallery (with artist Christina Mackie) in 2011; The Collection & Usher Gallery, Lincoln (with artist Oliver Laric) 2012; Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology in partnership with the Pitt Rivers Museum and the Ruskin School of Drawing & Fine Art (with artist Elizabeth Price) in 2013 and last year’s winners: Harris Museum and Art Gallery (with artist Nathaniel Mellors).


Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art with Pablo Helguera
Mexican, New York-based artist and writer Pablo Helguera’s (b. 1971) practice focuses on topics ranging from history, pedagogy, sociolinguistics and ethnography in mediums that are widely varied, including socially-engaged projects, museum display strategies, lectures, musical performances, essays and fictional texts. mima proposes commissioning Helguera to redesign their third floor as an interconnecting series of rooms called The Gymnasium, a place of holistic education as a stimulus for wellbeing and personal empowerment. Visitors would use it through exercising, accessing the collection, taking care of an edible garden or self-organising initiatives. Helguera will structure this with a bespoke learning and physical activity programme that connects mind and body. His work honours both meanings of the word ‘gymnasium’: a location for sporting and a preparatory school. It also suggests the ancient role played by the gymnasium as a hub for debate.

Ragnar Kjartansson with Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales and Artes Mundi
Kjartansson was born in Reykjavík, Iceland, in 1976, where he continues to live and work. The entire arc of art - film, music, theatre, visual culture and literature finds its way into his video installations, durational performances, drawings and paintings. Pretending, performing, acting and staging become key tools in the artist's attempt to convey sincere emotion and offering a genuine experience to the audience. Repetition is also key to his practice; collaborative performances can last hours, days, and weeks. Kjartansson’s work The Visitors was shown in Artes Mundi 6 but he is yet to be represented in a UK public collection. The application proposes that funding awarded by the Derek Williams Trust (DWT) Purchase Prize could be combined with the Contemporary Art Society Annual Award to commission a new, ambitious performance and film installation which will involve a number of elements including the museum itself, the local music scene from opera to pop and a 1774 chamber-organ in the National Museum Cardiff which is still regularly used for organ recitals.

Stephen Sutcliffe and Graham Eatough with The Whitworth, part of The University of Manchester, in partnership with LUX
Glasgow based artist Stephen Sutcliffe (b.1968, Harrogate) creates film collages from an extensive archive of British television, film sound, broadcast images and spoken word recordings which he has been collecting since childhood. Graham Eatough is a theatre maker who also works in visual arts and film. Having co-founded Suspect Culture Theatre Company in 1992, Graham was Artistic Director and Chief Executive. During this time Graham directed and occasionally performed in fifteen productions for the company which gained an international reputation for high-quality, innovative new work. The Whitworth propose to commission a new collaborative film combining Sutcliffe’s interests in British literary and popular culture of the 1960’s and 1970’s with Eatough’s ongoing exploration of theatricality in the creation of meaning in contemporary culture. Within the context of The Whitworth, these themes would take on a very specific meaning through exploring the artist as a cultural figure and raising ideas around authenticity and posterity by linking theatrical performance and irreverent humour. Working with LUX to ensure national and international exposure, Sutcliffe and Eatough’s commission would inevitably reflect upon the contents of the collection in which their work would eventually reside as well as continue to support The Whitworth’s commitment to collecting new media. This collaboration would also open up research opportunities across the disciplines of performance, film and theatre.

Katrina Palmer with The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery in collaboration with the Henry Moore Institute
Katrina Palmer (b. 1967) is known for her audio works that create sculptures using words. Her sculptures take the form of installations, books, readings, and recordings, and she creates immersive environments that draw on history, literature and systems that produce knowledge. Themes of death, sex, and loss permeate her practice; fiction and narratives are always central. The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery and the Henry Moore Institute propose to commission Katrina Palmer to create the University of Leeds Art’s first non-object campus work, connecting its buildings to the existing public art collection. The audio artwork would be delivered digitally, online and through mobile technology for visitors and listeners to engage with on campus. To commission Palmer would also contribute towards the Gallery’s efforts to address the gender imbalance in its collection by seeking out relevant, high-quality work by women artists. This is especially important for Leeds, given its importance as a centre of feminist art history, and as the site of the Feminist Archive North.