Ten moments that changed the John Moores Painting Prize

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1. Did you know the first three John Moores Painting Prize (JMPP) exhibitions included sculpture entries? This was scrapped in 1963, and the prize has been all about painting ever since. 

Sculpture in John Moores Painting prize exhibition
Installation view of John Moores 2

2. Mary Martin. She was the first woman to win first prize in 1969, and this was also the first and (as it stands) last time the prize was jointly awarded to two separate artists.

Mary martin
'Cross' Made in 1969 by Mary Martin

3. The Visitors' Choice Prize. Introduced in 2002, it was and still is a chance for visitors to vote for their favourite painting. Don’t agree with the judges? Go on, have your say.

Visitor Choice cards from JM2014
Visitor Choice cards from 2014

4. Bruce McLean’s 1985 win with ‘Oriental Garden, Kyoto.’ Why was this a watershed moment? Bruce, a sculptor rather than a painter, simultaneously challenged and reinforced the supremacy of painting at a time when its purpose was being hotly debated. Thanks Bruce!

Bruce McLean standing in front of his painting
Bruce McLean standing in front of his winning painting 'Oriental Garden, Kyoto'  in 1985

5. The first female majority JMPP jury in 1989. Until as recently as 1985,  it was not unusual to see an all-male jury, but the 1980s brought a new awareness about the visibility and representation of women within the arts. Now the jury is always a mix of genders.

JMPP 1989 jury
Photograph of the John Moores 16 jury (left to right): Barbara Toll, Therese Oulton, Kate Whiteford and Tim Hilton

6. Lisa Milroy. 1989 was also the same year the first woman, Lisa Milroy, won the first prize outright. There have been only been five women artists who have won first prize: Mary Martin, Lisa Milroy, Sarah Pickstone, Rose Wylie and Jacqui Hallum. Three of these wins have been in the last decade.

Lisa Milroy
'Handles' painted in 1989 by Lisa Milroy

7. The F word. Peter Davies' 'Super Star Fucker - Andy Warhol' was awarded first prize in 2002. Adrian Searle noted in the The Guardian: 'It is undoubtedly the first painting in the "the Moores" ever to contain the f-word.' 

Peter Davies
Super Star Fucker - Andy Warhol Text Painting, painted in 2001 by Peter Davies

8. Being part of  Walker Art Gallery's permanent collection. Many of the early prizewinning works were purchased by John Moores and presented to Walker Art Gallery. It was not always policy to acquire the first prizewinning work from each exhibition, but since 1978 the gallery has consistently acquired these. 

Rose Wylie
The John Moores Prizewinning Gallery

9. John Moores China. The first John Moores Painting Prize China, modelled on the British prize, was launched in Shanghai in 2010. Works by 28 artists were selected and the five Chinese prizewinning paintings were shown at Walker Art Gallery alongside the British exhibition. This is a now a regular feature in the UK prize. 

Qiu Chen
'Qiu Chen' by Zheng Haozhong, Winner of John Moores Painting Prize China in 2014

10. The Emerging Artist Prize 2020. Although JMPP awarded junior prizes for artists aged 36 and under up until 1967, this is the first time there has been a prize for an emerging artist who is either within two years of graduation, or is in their final year of a UK-based arts-related course, degree or alternative learning programme.