Aesthetica Magazine - ING Discerning Eye: The Value of Small Artworks


The annual ING Discerning Eye exhibition returns to Mall Galleries, London, in November, bringing small artworks into focus. Now open for entries, it is looking for submissions of pieces up to 50cm in any dimension, highlighting the growing visual and commercial value of small artworks. As Dr Giles Brown, collector and 2014 ING Discerning Eye selector, notes: “‘Statement’ art need not be ‘large’ art. Scale is certainly not limiting artistically or aesthetically. Smaller works have the ability to draw you in, demanding closer inspection and focus, and reveal detail, nuance and meaning as a result.”

Demonstrating these subtleties is artist Richard Baker, who has exhibited with ING Discerning Eye from 2010-2018. His paintings – some of which measure just 15cm x 20cm – explore the human histories behind objects and social spaces such as hotel rooms and train stations. “I make modest works which are intentionally quiet and unobtrusive,” he says. “I often refer to my paintings as being intimate. I don’t want them to shout at the viewer and demand attention or to envelop them through their size. The paintings require the viewer to approach, inviting them to take a closer look, to pay attention. This closeness brings an intimacy and involvement with the object that is precious for a reason you can’t always fathom.”

The art world is acknowledging the value of small artworks. In 2017, Sotheby’s launched Actual Size, a first-of-its-kind auction focusing on 20th and 21st century paintings and sculptures no bigger than the catalogue page. The demand for pieces of this scale  is clear, with the selection including renowned names such as Van Gogh, Cézanne, Miró and Picasso – whose Buste de femme couchée tripled estimates to sell for £2,408,750. “We like the idea of breaking the addiction that bigger is always better,” noted Actual Size curators Thomas Bompard and Allan Schwartzman. “We want to reanimate connoisseurship in different ways, in this case by focusing on exceptional works on an intimate scale.”

A small sized artwork is attractive to buyers for multiple reasons, including accessibility. Easy to transport, small works are ideal for a new generation of city-dwelling collectors and curators. “There are practical considerations to buying small artworks,” Brown continues. “Size and affordability make them easier to commit to, and the pleasure and stimulation derived from seeing a work on a daily basis cannot be overestimated. The annual ING Discerning Eye Exhibition was conceived with these considerations in mind. It offers experienced and, importantly, new collectors the opportunity to view and buy from a uniquely curated exhibition of small works of art.”

The ING Discerning Eye Exhibition 2019 is now calling for entries. The deadline to pre-register online is 27 August, 5pm. Register now or find out more at: thediscerningeye.artopps.co.uk

For regular updates, follow @ingdiscerningeye on Instagram.

Lead image: Richard Baker, Cupboard 2. Medium: Oil on calico over panel. Size: 31cm x 24cm. Date: 2017.



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