Jacqueline Poncelet and MIMA Middlesbrough win £100k Freelands Award

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Jacqueline Poncelet and MIMA Middlesbrough win £100k Freelands Award
Jacqueline Poncelet, Wrapper, 2012 (view over Edgware Road tube station). Printed enamel panels. Courtesy the artist.

LONDON.- Freelands Foundation today announced that artist Jacqueline Poncelet (b. 1947, Liege, Belgium) and MIMA Middlesbrough have won the sixth annual Freelands Award, alongside the unveiling of a new partnership with the Art Fund aimed at increasing public access to works by women artists in the UK.

Founded in 2015, the Freelands Award is an annual £100,000 prize enabling an organisation outside of London to present a solo exhibition, including new work, by a mid-career woman artist whose work may not have received the recognition it deserves.

MIMA will present a survey of Poncelet’s 50-year practice, including ceramics, sculpture, painting, textiles and aspects of her large-scale architectural work, that will take place 7 March – 7 July 2024. New commissions by the artist will engage with the manufacturing traditions of the region, which include linen, rag-rugs and steelwork.

The exhibition will be Poncelet’s first UK solo exhibition in a public institution since presentations at Whitechapel Gallery, Kettles Yard and Modern Art Oxford in 1985, 1988 and 1995. Associated in the 1980s with the New British Sculpture movement, her multifarious career did not enjoy the success of her male peers Richard Deacon, Tony Cragg and Anish Kapoor. During the 1990s and 2000s, Poncelet sustained her practice with public art commissions and teaching.

Elinor Morgan, Head of Programme, MIMA, said: “Artists make the world, and we need their ingenuity, thoughtfulness and creativity more than ever. Over 50 years Jacqueline Poncelet has demonstrated a quiet tenacity and commitment to learning and making … from small-scale ceramics to large public art installations, she consistently responds to context and tirelessly challenges herself to understand new processes and techniques.”

Jacqueline Poncelet said: “The Freelands Award means a great deal to me, as a recognition of my career which continues to follow an unconventional path. It’s such a tantalising prospect: MIMA will have the time and money to work an ambitious survey show, and the richness of the area around Middlesbrough will be a source of many ideas. My work varies hugely in scale: on the one hand tiny delicate pots 8cms in height and on the other hand non-repeating wallpapers 6m high. There are few galleries in the country that so perfectly suited to my work.”

Also shortlisted for the Freelands Award 2021 were Focal Point Gallery, Southend, with Elsa James, Hastings Contemporary with Caragh Thuring, Leeds Art Gallery with Rose English, Sheffield Museums with Lubna Chowdhary and Towner Eastbourne with Emma Stibbon.

The Foundation also announced a new partnership with the Art Fund, which aims to increase public access to works by women artists. The Freelands Art Fund Acquisition will enable museums and public collections across the UK to access grants of £50,000 to acquire works by Freelands Award winning artists, launching in November 2021.

Elisabeth Murdoch, Founder and Chair of Freelands Foundation, said: “Over the last five years, the Freelands Award has enabled audiences and a new generation of artists to encounter the innovative and inspiring practices of mid-career women artists, whose work may otherwise have been overlooked. The Freelands Art Fund Acquisition is a hugely exciting partnership which will permanently embed important works by these women artists in public collections across the UK, for everyone to enjoy, in perpetuity.”

Jenny Waldman, director of Art Fund, said: “This exciting new partnership between Art Fund and Freelands Foundation will give many mid-career women artists the public recognition they deserve and introduce important contemporary works into UK collections. We look forward to brokering new relationships between artists, museums, public galleries and their audiences.”

This follows confirmation that a significant work by Jacqueline Donachie, winner of the first Freelands Award (2016), will enter the Tate collection in 2022, enabled by Freelands Foundation. Advice Bar (Expanded for the Times), 2017 was first exhibited at Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, on the occasion of the artist’s Freelands Award exhibition.

The Freelands Award 2021 was judged by a panel comprising Elisabeth Murdoch (Founder and Chair, Freelands Foundation), artist Jacqueline Donachie (winner of the inaugural Freelands Award), Robert Leckie (Director, Spike Island, Bristol) and Courtney J. Martin (Director, Yale Center for British Art, Connecticut).

Previous winners of the Award are MK Gallery and Ingrid Pollard (2020), Hepworth Wakefield and Hannah Starkey (2019), Spike Island and Veronica Ryan (2018), Nottingham Contemporary and Lis Rhodes (2017) and the Fruitmarket Gallery and Jacqueline Donachie (2016).

The announcement of the Award coincides with the publication of Freelands Foundation’s sixth annual report into ‘The Representation of Women Artists in the UK’. Written by Dr Kate McMillan, this research contains new data and a series of essays exploring the intersectional impact of social class and racial background on women artists. Its findings illustrate that despite women students representing 75% of art A level students and 65% of art and design undergraduates, women artists enjoy less visibility and success in their careers, with Black and Brown artists further disadvantaged by institutional structures.

In 2020, only 37% of artists represented by commercial galleries in London were women, and only 11% of represented estates related to deceased women artists. Only 35% of solo presentations by these galleries in autumn last year were by women. At Christies October 2020 evening sale, only 4% lots were by women, and none by Black and Brown women. Meanwhile, of 24 UK major visual arts institutions surveyed, only 29% were led by women, and none by Black and Brown directors.Women artists were even less visible in national public collections: only 10.9% of the Government Art Collection, 14% of works in the British Council Collection, 18% of the Arts Council Collection and a mere 1.1% of the National Gallery Collection are by women artists.

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