Tony Humphreys, Chief Executive, The Discerning Eye
A Conversation with Tony Humphreys from
The ING Discerning Eye
The Seventh View, which opened on January 30th at C24 Gallery, is an exhibition of works by 21 UK artists who were previously chosen to be part of the ING Discerning Eye Exhibition, an annual event mounted by the London based Discerning Eye Charity. We recently had a conversation with Discerning Eye CEO Tony Humphreys, to learn more about the organization and its collaboration with C24 Gallery.
C24 Gallery - What is your involvement in The Discerning Eye exhibition? How long have you been affiliated, and what brought you to the table in the first place?
Tony Humphreys - I am CEO of The Discerning Eye Charity, which is a London based arts organisation that mounts the annual ING Discerning Eye Exhibition at the Mall Galleries every year. The first exhibition was in 1990, and I first visited the 1995 exhibition as a guest because there had been a two year gap with no event, due to lack of sponsorship. I was invited by the artist Michael Reynolds, who had invented the concept of the exhibition, in the hope that I might have some ideas of potential sponsors. Luckily I was able to help find a small amount of sponsorship from a friend who worked for a financial institution in the city of London. They liked the event and wanted to continue supporting the following year, at which point I was drafted in to help make sure things went to plan!
C24 - What's the significance of bringing selections from the exhibition to the US? How did this come about?
TH - We have always thought that the concept of the Discerning Eye would work well in the USA, particularly NYC. Through a mutual friend, I was introduced to David Terry in 2012, and he to the Discerning Eye, when he was at New York Foundation of the Arts (NYFA). David came to London to see an exhibition, and although we couldn't get the support of NYFA to join forces with us for a full exhibition in New York, David really liked the principles of the DE and we just kept in touch on a personal level. When he joined C24, it seemed that the two organisations had a lot in common. As we are both working for the benefits of artists, bringing a selection of works from the 2019 exhibition to C24 just seemed to fit and make sense.
C24 - We're impressed with the diversity of artists represented in The Discerning Eye exhibition. Does ING make a specific point of reaching underrepresented artists?
TH - The original concept and format of the Discerning Eye has not changed since day one, and it's really part of my job to protect that. The main format is six selectors (two artists, two critics and two collectors) who can each invite a certain number of artists of their choice. However, in addition to any artists they invite, they have to hang at least 25% of their selection from works submitted by artists in an open submission process. Submissions can be from any artist, well established or unknown. Selectors all see the physical work (it is not a digital submission) so view around 2,500 works, without knowing who the artists are. They are encouraged to respond to the work, not the artist, which ensures that a wide mixture of artists, including many who are under-represented and unknown make it through to hang alongside more celebrated and successful people. In this format, each work that is seen has six opportunities to exhibit, because it only takes one of the selectors to like a work, for it to be selected. This is not a committee decision; art is personal, which means that every hang is like having six mini exhibitions making up the whole.
C24 - What kind of impact does involvement in this exhibition have for the artists whose work is chosen?
TH - Given the reducing number of open submission shows, the Discerning Eye is definitely an exhibition artists are happy to put on their bios/cv's. Also we try to do what we can to improve the value for artists in as many ways as we can. First, all works have to be for sale, and we encourage as many new buyers as possible. As part of this, we have for many years awarded a number of purchase prizes, where a prize-giver commits to buying a particular work. The artist not only gets the recognition of being a prize-winner, which always helps a career, but for these works, the charity does not take commission, so the artist receives the full wall value of the work. We have had artists report many positive things about being involved with the exhibition. This ranges from a simple change of mood and confidence at being selected, to being career changing, either because of a particular sale of a work or because the DE has led them to their first solo exhibitions and other group shows.
C24 - Does The Discerning Eye participate in any other significant organizational collaborations?
TH - The 2019 collaboration with C24 is really our first activity of this kind. It is certainly our first international exposure. We mount a number of other activities in the UK under our own banner, such as arranging workshops for artists and collectors, and we also have our own collection, made up of works acquired from previous DE exhibitions, either as prizes, purchases or donations. The DE collection is made available to public spaces and galleries to give additional exposure to those works and artists in the collection and to further promote the charity. As we exist to provide additional opportunities for artists, the collaboration with C24 offered a perfect chance to do something different for UK artists, and I know that the opportunity was greatly received and enjoyed by those able to attend in person.
The collaboration with C24 Gallery was the first activity that brought international exposure to the Discerning Eye. The response from the artists whose work we chose to include in The Seventh View has been enthusiastic, and we have enjoyed developing relationships with so many new UK based artists. We are honored to be a significant part of this organization’s long history.
For more information on works featured in The Seventh View, contact, or click on the images below.
Ilsa Brittain, Self Portrait, 2017, oil and acrylic texture mediums on panel, 15.75 x 11.81in. (40 x 30cm)
Kristian Evju, Incriminations VI, 2019, pencil and acrylic on paper, 11.8 x 15.8in. (30 x 40.1cm)
Katherine Lees, Little Treasures, 2019, Oil on aluminum, 6 × 8 in, 15.2 × 20.3 cm
Elizabeth Meek, Studies of Winston, 2015, oil on canvas, 14.96 x 18.9in. (38 x 48cm)
Kate Sherman, Coast 9, 2018, oil on panel, 13.78 x 13.78in. (35 x 35cm)
Roy Eastland, Empire Day, 2019, silver on gesso on board, original silverpoint drawing
8.27 x 10.63in. (21 x 27cm)
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