All you need is ART

Timothy Barber
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Selector for ING Discerning EYE 2010

ON Tuesday night this week the Dutch bank ING hosted a private view for the annual art event it sponsors, the ING Discerning Eye exhibition, which features the works on this page among hundreds of others. Focussing on small works – small enough for easy hanging in the home – the exhibition is a giddy swirl of colour, styles, techniques and talents.

At the event I noticed a guest closely inspecting a haunting night-time streetscape by the painter Selwyn Leamy. He explained the picture reminded him of a long walk home he’d made as a young man after missing his last train one night, when he’d found his irritation at having to make the journey suddenly dissipated by the realisation of how beautiful deserted suburbia looked by the glow of street lamps. He told me he’d decided to buy the painting.

I found this heartening for two reasons. One, it’s the reason people should buy art – the fact that it evokes a personal response, whatever form that may take, is far more important than, say, its investment prospects or the fact that it might “go well” in a particular room. It should be an expression and reflection of the buyer’s tastes, outlook and experience as much as the artist’s.

Second, because Leamy is one of 41 artists I selected to take part. This is the 19th annual Discerning Eye show, and each year a different panel of selectors – two artists, two collectors, two critics – invite artists to exhibit, as well as sifting through thousands of works submitted directly from people across the country. This year it’s been my privilege to take a place on the panel (as a critic, since you ask).

It’s been a stirring, inspiring experience. Each selector gets their own section of the show – there’s no collaborative element to fall back on – which they must fill with around 100 works. It gives you a view of the creative, visionary talent that, away from headlines and trends, bubbles away constantly and quietly, making artworks that will mean something to someone somewhere, and make a house a home.