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Transcript of podcast of the speeches and announcement of prizewinners for John Moores 25

David Fleming: Good evening everybody and welcome. My name is David Fleming, Director of National Museums Liverpool. A number of you will be relieved to hear, I will be very, very, brief this evening. This is, in case you'd forgotten why you'd come, the private view and the formal announcement of the winners of John Moores 25 and it also marks the 50th year of the prize, which was founded by Sir John Moores in 1957. So it is a particularly auspicious John Moores show and Im sure that some of you will have seen already that it's outstanding in terms of its quality. As well as welcoming everybody generally, I'd like to welcome guests from the Gulbenkian Foundation, the Liverpool Biennial and Sir Nicholas Serota, who I did spot here somewhere earlier on tonight - but he's probably hiding. I would if I were him. That's all from me, except to say how delighted I am to welcome the new chairman of National Museums Liverpool. He's only been chairman for six weeks and he's already been like a whirling dervish! I'm delighted he could join us here tonight, ladies and gentleman, Professor Phil Redmond. [applause]

Phil Redmond: There was a gasp of surprise behind me when I stood up! This is actually my first official welcome to National Museums and The Walker and in my briefing note I was told to do one thing: and that was to be brief. And I will be. And I just wanted to welcome you here but also to say that from my Irish ancestry and my accent, I can say that the name John Moores, the Moores family and the John Moores exhibition is actually part of Liverpool's DNA. So I'm extremely pleased we're here at JM25 and also to say because of that, we are tonight also opening a redisplay of previous winners from 1956, which will be available later. And long may it be part of our DNA. So welcome, I won't delay you any longer because we all want to know who actually won don't we. So I'll pass you over to Reyahn. Thank you. [applause]

Reyahn King: Thank you Phil and thank you all for coming. I have to say thank you not only to all the many artists who entered and are now in this exhibition, the forty artists who made it through, but a particular thanks to our judges; Jake and Dinos Chapman, Graham Crowley, Paul Morrison and Sacha Craddock. They gave their time, their passion, their expertise and I think that you'll agree that in this selection, that really shows. The exhibition would not have been possible without some key sponsors, the John Moores Liverpool Exhibition Trust and we're really lucky that we have the support and the active involvement of the Moores family still and my particular thanks to Paul Shickenoway, Lady Grantchester and Martin Ainscough for their work with us on the steering group for this project, for the prize and the exhibition. My thanks too, to A Foundation for their support and collaboration, to the official hotel partner, Radisson SAS Hotel Liverpool, our media partner, AN Magazine and National Museums Liverpool's corporate members club, Business 2008. Rathbone Investment Management are sponsoring the visitors choice award.

The competition and exhibition involves many, many staff at National Museums Liverpool. Too many to mention here, but as they say; you do know who you are, and I'm sure everyone appreciating the exhibition tonight really does join me in thanking you. I'd now like to hand over to Lady Grantchester from the John Moores Liverpool Exhibition Trust. [applause]

Lady Grantchester: My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you so much for coming tonight and for joining us in this 25th celebration of the John Moores Exhibition. Looking round I can see many old friends here and would especially thank you for continuing your support during the last fifty years. And I'd like you to cast your mind back to 1957, probably not old enough! Liverpool was still rebuilding after the bombing and revitalising its cultural life. Music and theatre were flourishing but there was little modern art on show. It's true there were artists working in the area but not much was seen. They found it difficult to showcase their work and of course most of the agents were in the south. My Father, an enthusiastic amateur painter, had every sympathy with them.

He, although not a native of Liverpool, had found it his business here and thrown himself into the life of the city. Before the war he became a member of the city council and had sponsored various sporting events here. He had even financed a small aeroplane named 'Miss Liverpool One', to take part in the Johannesburg Air Race that as everyone knows, sadly ended in tragedy. But other enterprises followed, such as the sponsorship of the Australian Women's Cricket Tour an American baseball team and various swimming events. So with his continuing desire to promote the city and his wish to help artists, what could be better than to combine the two? Just my Father's sort of thing.

He, together with [indistinct] Stephenson, Principle of Liverpool Arts School and Hugh Scrutton, Director of The Walker, conceived the idea of bringing the best of British art to Liverpool by launching a competition open to all and with substantial prizes. And this would in turn provide a showcase for artists to demonstrate their work. The exhibition was given star treatment in the city and was well received in the art world. In time it became a painting prize only and attracted many budding artists, some of whom are now household names. Not long after, my brother Peter Moores began to fill the alternate intervals between these two-yearly events with exhibitions of contemporary painting. First Italian and then British and this continued with some seven of these exhibitions.

So slowly, slowly, over the years came recognition of Liverpool's place as the centre for modern art. The Tate founded their first museum of modern art outside London and finally, my cousin James Moores conceived The Biennial. It might well be said, that this reputation as a centre of contemporary British art is likely to have influence the choice of Liverpool as European Capital of Culture. Indeed, from little acorns do mighty oaks grow.

But those oaks have many branches and many leaves, all bringing forth fruit. So do remember all the people who have contributed to the continued success of this exhibition. The generous donors and tireless trustees of the exhibition fund, the supportive and successive boards of trustees of Musems of Merseyside, the long line of Walker gallery directors and all their splendid staff. Indeed the exhibition could not continue without the dedication and expertise of all these people. So I do hope you will appreciate and enjoy the exhibition and continue to support it for many more years. I hope too that you will find time to enjoy all that Liverpool has to offer, not only at the moment but in the future. And that the city as a centre of excellence will continue to grow and flourish for many a long year. Thank you. [applause]

Reyahn King: Thank you. I'd now like to introduce one of our judges Sacha Craddock; an independent art critic and curator. She has, as many of you will know, a wealth of experience judging art prizes, including the Royal Academy Summer exhibition and the Turner Prize and is chair of Bloomburg New Contemporaries. Sacha. [applause]

Sacha Craddock: Good evening everybody. What I'm going to try to do is to give you a slight insight into the selection process. What I find really annoying often is that exhibitions just arrive as if from another planet. Decisions are made and there is not really a discussion about how things get the way they are. There were five of us on the jury and I have to say that we worked hard. Now I don't want to be one of those boring jurors that goes on about how long it was in the dark - but it was an intense time. And what we found in the process of starting with over 3,000 applicants sending images of paintings - it's impossible unfortunately, not like the old days, to look at every picture for real. So you're dealing with painting as an image in a way, not as the thing itself. We had to sift through this work and try very, very hard not to leave anything that had the slightest indication of interest behind.

So the first stage in a way is perhaps the easiest one. But it's very import to remind people that this is anonymous - people apply, you do not know who is applying. And however many artists any of us individual jurors know, we are not there in the business to help people we know. In fact, it's too exhausting and complicated. You can't even link the knowledge of something with the image you see. So we go through the first process and I just want to make that clear - that it's quite serious and it's labour intensive - and quite right because so many people make painting and so many people have faith in this exhibition. There is life in this exhibition because it is so serious and proper. You're also dealing with individual images and I wrote something about thousands of individual works without the context of comfort or the comfort of context. In other words, paintings having to work in the way they always did, perhaps on their own, without any kind of understand of where they come from, what they might be trying to say. And therefore you sift through and so on. So the first stage is important but interesting. And also as group in a way that's the kindest bit because if you have any interest you say "I'm interested in that" and everybody says "yes I agree", perhaps or not and you hold it, knowing that it's going to really get going later on.

So the next stage is very important. We agreed after much discussion - and it was real discussion about ideas, about work. Never about any kind of personalisation or knowledge about someone's career. It's about the work apparently itself. To sift down to shortlist in order to see in time honoured fashion the paintings themselves. Well paintings are not images. They're not illustrative, they are not anything other than something that represents a kind of physical reality in some way. It's a good thing painting. It's limited in some way. You've got the edge of it somehow.

And so we saw the next lot lined up and we were here in Liverpool over time looking at the speculative shortlist or the things that we could choose from. Often you'd have a sense of disappointment - "My God is it that big?" - even though you knew the size. A change of scale, a change of physicality. But often, and I must point this out - you start to love images and you start to love paintings. When you see the thing for real you love it even more. That sounds soppy, but actually instead of that idea people used to have judging art prizes - "Oh that does nothing for me" - something does something for you over time. If you give it time to be there. The relationship between time and painting (don't worry, you're not going to get a lecture!) but it matters.

So suddenly things started living. What we also realised as a group of people - of very, very, knowledgeable in many different ways, but also of perhaps different interests - is that what we wanted in this show, was what we agreed on. So we didn't want a liberal portioning of "this is your kind of thing", we ended up with a bit of a Venn diagram - where you converge and the agreement is the very core of your feeling, that breaks away from an idea, a partisan involvement, to the sense that all the paintings here stayed with us and have actually sustained immensely. And that is incredibly important in an exhibition.

You'll see that in the exhibition is, in a way, fewer artists than at some Moores prizes. I've been to quite a few, and actually it's quite nice. It's the most fantastic, magnificent gallery and the smaller space is there in which to hang it. We hope that there is a sense of, a sort of spareness, in terms of the way the work is laid out. There are associations between works but there aren't in a way, it's not an exhibition as such, it's a selection of works. It's a prize actually isn't it! I'm sorry I forgot about it.

So I just feel also it’s incredibly important - we went through this selection and it's fantastic and we agreed pretty much. We had a lot of discussion, extremely heated. But in the end we had to agree and that was a great thing. So it's about a collective decision as opposed to individual priority. And I just want to move on to, really, this thing about painting; alive, dead, all that nonsense. Nonsense! It is. It's always. And we have a representation, not of something that is less or more old fashioned, or more radical or less radical art form. It is a medium that is constantly being reinterpreted and reused. The relationship between painting, photography, printmaking and other media, let alone the painting of the past, is so important. And therefore, you have this fantastic relation here to the dexterity, the physicality, what paint can do. Not just to tell you something but in itself as well.

Enough of that lecturing! Ok, I suppose you are waiting for this. Actually there are five prizewinners. I'll tell you who they are and then I hope the individuals will come up in a minute to get their (God I've never done anything like this - a bit embarrassing) envelope.

Ok, five prizewinners. The first prizewinner is Julian Brain with the painting; 'Special Relativity'. Hurray! [applause]

The next is Geraint - I say it wrong because I'm not good on Welsh - Evans, for a painting called; 'An Ornamental Hermit'. [applause]

Actually that is kind of, it is what it is, if you see what I mean. The painting illustrates...

Grant Foster for 'Hero Worship' [applause]

Neil Jones for 'Breugal Camp' [applause]

And Peter McDonald for 'Fontana' - there. [applause]

So Julian... [applause]

...I'm kind of doing this in a cack handed way because I'm not used to it.

Anyway -Julian. [applause]

Grant! [applause]

Neil! [applause]

And the first prize of the John Moores 25, is Peter McDonald. [applause and cheers]

Reyahn King: Thank you. The first prizewinner is just here for those of you who are too far away to see it, it's here. I'm sure you're all dying to get out into the exhibition and see all the other works as well as the other prizewinners. So please do enjoy the rest of the evening. We're open until nine o'clock, there are drinks outside, the catalogue is now on sale and please enjoy yourselves. Thank you. [applause]