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Interview with Justin Hammond, curator of The Catlin Art Prize

Posted by Lorena Muñoz-Alonso on 14th January 2014

Justin Hammond, Curator of the The Catlin Art Prize has firmly established the award as one of the most essential and serious BA and MA Fine Art graduate prizes in the whole of the UK. Each year, Justin curates what are, in his view, the next challenging artists across the UK. 

We sat down with Justin to hear his take on the prize, submission process and advice for new art graduates and collectors. 

Justin Hammond is the curator of The Catlin Art Prize

How did the prize come about? Were you involved from the very beginning?

I ran a gallery in Hackney working mainly with new graduates for several years, and this pattern seemed to emerge, in which they would do well for a while but then would start taking bar jobs to survive and eventually most would end up giving up their art careers, due to lack of money and support. The idea of The Catlin Art Prize is that we give the selected artists a support system for at least a year after leaving college. Besides the prize and exhibition taking place a year on from graduation, so they have that to work towards, we bring curators and collectors down to their studios and actively pursue sales and contacts and so on.

How does the selection process work?

We shortlist a different number of artists each year. It depends on the size of the venue we are doing the show, but it is usually around 10. This year is a little bit different though, because it’s the 5th anniversary. We have raised the prize to £5,000, and we have invited all the past winners as well as key artists to show, so this year the exhibition features a total of 17. We are also introducing The Catlin Commission, in which we will commission one of them to do a new piece for Catlin’s new HQ.

Leah Capaldi, an MA Sculpture graduate from the Royal College of Art, is one of the five nominees for the prize

I think one of the strongest points of the prize is that it covers the whole UK, as well as producing a publication to showcase the works.

The reason why I wanted to make it all over the UK is because a lot of these kind of survey-graduate shows tend to be London-centric. As for the guide, this is the second year we have done it. The reason why it came about was to render the selection process a bit more transparent. And one of the points of the book is that it announces the shows the artists will have the following year, instead of the ones they already had.

Is there any particular university outside London that surprised you?

Last year we had a winner from outside London for the first time, he was from Brighton, which was really exciting. There is an art school in Scotland, the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee, which is fantastic. It is a course that mixes practice with philosophy and last year we had two artists from that course.

Noemi Goudal, MA Photography graduate from the Royal College of art, is also a finalist

What would be your advice to new graduates and collectors?

Choose your shows after graduation, don’t over expose yourself. It is very dangerous to say yes to everything, because you can start repeating yourself. Sometimes it’s good to stop for six months and think through your practice. Like our nominee Noemi Goudal. She has turned down lots of shows in order to go to the jungle, without a laptop or a phone, and make new work. Also, be patient and think long term. I think an artist should stick to it for at least 10 years before giving up.

For collectors, my advice is to collect the art you love first. Any considerations on investment should only be made once you really love a piece. I have met way too many people who buy art they never regret. (Editors Note: This is also the reason why Rise Art promotes Art Rentals on work across the site).

Are YOU going to London Art Fair? If so, read our expert JEAN WAINWRIGHT'S top tips on HOW TO SURVIVE AN ART FAIR.