Quilts in the Fine Art World
There’s hope for quilting in the fine art world.
In May this year Sarah Contos won the Ramsay Art Prize, she won $100,000 with her 21st Century Quilt titled “The Long Kiss Goodbye”. The Ramsay prize is described as Australia's richest prize for young contemporary artists. The quilt is massive; it’s 10x20 feet, that’s roughly 3x6 metres! In photos I can see it has oversize binding and large trapunto bits, I read how the images in the quilt are previous screen prints she’d made and this was a final display piece for 4 years worth of her prints. I can see patchwork but no quilting together of the layers but I’m thinking there must be some for it to hang well given its size and weight. I really like it as an art piece, I like it even more that she won enough money to create more art and that she won such a prestigious prize with a quilt. This really is a beautiful combination of printmaking and quilting. I’m curious what they would’ve thought about it if it was entered into the Australasian Quilt Convention instead of an art show?
Back in 2015 there was Ann and Steven Loveless' ArtPrize entry "Northwood Awakening". That won ArtPrize’s $200,000 Public Vote Grand Prize. It’s a combination of a photo taken by Steven and a batik quilt by Ann. It merges from fully photo at one end to fully quilt at the other end. She created all the batik fabrics then collaged little pieces of them together and quilted over the top. I’m unsure if she used batting though as it looks very flat in photos. So here we have another fine art piece that’s a quilt, a combination of photography and quilting. I’m not sure they’d be able to enter this in your typical quilt exhibition due to its size and being half photograph. I made the mistake of reading online comments about this piece of art, there were people claiming it wasn’t art and it was “just craft”. Some called it “folksy” and said it didn’t deserve to win. I really doubt those commenting were art experts and were just jealous of Ann & Steven’s success. $200,000 is a lot of money to win for an artwork and it would be an incredible boost to your career as an artist.
Photo Source: http://www.quiltsbyann.com/author/quilts_admin_2015/
So these two artworks are both very large, both entered into very prestigious ART awards and both took the top prize. Both are combinations of quilting and another art form. Both would be ineligible for standard quilt exhibitions due to their size (Northwood Awakening appears to be mounted on a frame which would make it also unable to be folded).
Maybe one of the reasons art quilting has struggled to shed the craft label and break into the world of fine art is more to do with where we choose to enter our art quilts? We enter quilts into quilt symposia, festivals, conventions, events, exhibitions, curated travelling shows etc but they are all QUILT shows. We rarely enter them into top art awards. But look what happens when we do!
I’m excited and encouraged by Sarah Contos winning the Ramsay prize with a quilt. It’s showing the world quilts do have a place in the art world and that’s it’s not about old ladies and bedspreads. It’s about time we as quilters have more faith in our work and consider entering more art awards and exhibitions, show the art world what we can do.
Photographer Saul Steed - http://artguide.com.au/sarah-contos-wins-inaugural-ramsay-art-prize