Sharpen your pencils. Fire up your laptops. Get in copious quantities of strong coffee. The deadline for our Emerging Art Writers competition is under three weeks away, and the British art world is waiting for your brilliant, considered and exquisitely written contributions to the question ‘What, if anything, is the legacy of British Modernism in British art today?’.
We’re seeking previously unpublished writers who can respond imaginatively and knowledgeably to our question and express themselves with clarity. There is no age restriction – you can emerge as an art writer at any time of life. Good spelling and grammar are of course a given. But beyond that we hope to be enlightened and stimulated by the responses we receive. We’re hoping to discover some exciting new writers on art, with the knowledge to write authoritatively about modern and contemporary British art, and the ability to communicate that knowledge accessibly.
The Emerging Art Writers Competition is part of Lund Humphries’ 75th birthday celebrations this year. Our first proper art book, Frank Lloyd Wright’s An Organic Architecture, published in 1939, was in fact the transcript of a series of lectures which the celebrated American architect gave at the RIBA in London. The author/speaker calls them ‘spontaneous talks’, and every so often his text, reproduced verbatim, is interrupted by some spontaneous questions, also transcribed, which makes for an eccentric, if fascinating text.
In the early years of our publishing, Lund Humphries’ art books were almost all written by the same person – the prolific and influential Herbert Read. His texts generally took the form of short introductions to series of plates. In Ben Nicholson Volume 2 (Work since 1947), published in 1956, Read starts his introduction by quoting from and responding to criticism of Ben Nicholson Volume 1 that he hadn’t adequately explained Nicholson’s ‘artistic environment’ and the origins of the artist’s abstraction. Modern, abstract British art was still so unfamiliar and strange to most British readers that its genesis had to be carefully explained, and its importance properly justified.
Today’s audiences are savvier, but perhaps no less wary. How do we judge what is good and significant in contemporary art? Now as then, we need critical but accessible writing on art to help inform our understanding of it. We hope you will take up the challenge.
Lucy Myers, Managing Director