London – Gallerist Cynthia Corbett today announced that her Art Prize will no longer be sponsored by Trafigura, and will instead be renamed the Young Masters Art Prize.
Cynthia explains “Since the prize was conceived 2 years ago we approached various art foundations and corporate organizations to sponsor an art prize. We feel that the recent events involving Trafigura are detracting from the main purpose of the prize, which is to celebrate emerging and newly established artists.”
The Young Masters Art Prize will be awarded to one of sixteen international artists who have been chosen to exhibit work at the Young Masters exhibition, which opened at The Old Truman Brewery last Thursday night with over 1200 visitors.
The winner of the Young Masters Art Prize will be announced on Tuesday 3November, and the prize will be continued each year, with funding for the prize money sourced for alternative sponsors. This year the prize will be non-monetary.
The Young Masters Art Prize will be judged by an independent panel of high profile artists, journalists and historians.
For further information please contact The Cynthia Corbett Gallery
Last week the much-tweeted Trafigura affair collided with the world of art – with ungainly results. It’s not just Trafigura and Carter Ruck’s reputation that have taken a pasting over the last few days on Twitter.
On Friday, Twitterers claimed victory in a freedom of speech issue surrounding the oil trading company Trafigura. At the heart was a report, commissioned by Trafigura themselves into thedumping of slops in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, which Trafigura did not want the public to see. The toxic chemicals are alleged to have caused the deah of up to 18 people and injury to at least 30,0oo more.
When the existence of the report was raised under the privilege of a parliamentary question, the solicitors Carter-Ruck effectively imposed an injunction on The Guardian reporting what was now parliamentary business. At which point the Twitterverse scented a rat and began publicising not only the injunction and its history, but disclosing the full contents of the damning report. Bingo. The company’s efforts to keep the report quiet resulted in it being transmitted around the world to millions of internet users. The result was that a whole swathe of those who had been perhaps a little sceptical about the use of Twitter became converts.
While old media were impotent in the face of the injunction, new media simply swept all this aside. Hurrah for new media.
Well, not quite. It was a little more complicated than that. The Guardian had very cleverly dropped a hint of the injunction on its front page knowing that the unfettered world of new media was likely to pick up and run with it. For all its self-congratulation, it’s not likely that the Twitterverse would have picked up the story on their own. What it should be seen as is an exemplary act of collaboration between old and new.
Anyway, to THE ART BIT.
During Tuesday’s Twitterstorm, an artist called Ivan Pope was amongst those who, googling for stick-like facts to beat Trafigura with, noticed that the company were sponsoring The Trafigura Art art prize as part of the Young Masters exhibition.
As an artist he was quite reasonably shocked to see an arts event associated with a company who were the subject of a damning UN report into the dumping incident. As Pope and others spread news of the prize, the Cynthia Corbett Gallery and exhibition curator Constance Slaughter became the target of the widespread rage against Trafigura. Pope blogged:
OK, so bringing Trafigura and artists together seemed like a good idea.
Except that it is damaging to the artists, the judges, the gallery and the art world generally.
But it is great news for Trafigura, who paid £4,000 for the privilege.
Yes, that’s right. It cost them £4,000 to attach their name to an art world prize.
The prize is run by suckers who think Trafigura are really ‘the good guys’, and that it’s all media lies.
Yes, the organisers of the prize are giving out great PR for Trafigura. If you know how much Pottinger-Bell type PR costs, you’ll see the value in this prize to them.
On Friday, after four days flak, the Cynthia Corbett Gallery finally announced that they were withdrawing the Trafigura Prize.
OK. Kudos should be given to anyone seeking sponsorship for artists. But.
Sponsorship, as Pope points out, is an exchange. It’s bizarre that no one from the gallery, nor any the judges who had agreed to take part in the prize, nor or any of the artists in the Young Masters exhibition, had bothered to consider whether it was a Good Idea to be involved with Trafigura until Tuesday’s Twitterstorm.
Though some, like the artist Tom Hunter who was one of the prize’s intended judges, publicly disassociated themselves from the prize following the ruckus, it took until Friday for the gallery itself to pull out. That leaves the impression that they only did so when the PR negatives of the association outweighed the positives, not because of any concern with the wider issues.
As public funding decreases in coming years, sponsorship is going to become increasingly central to the long-term health of the arts. But any sponsorship is an act of partnership – a joining of reputations.
There’s no excuse for not knowing about the controversy surrounding Trafigura. Despite the injunctions, the allegations have been in the public domain since 2006. The Ivory Coast dumping was the subject of a major Newsnight investigation in May this year.
Talk about reputation management. This sort of thing leaves the arts looking unengaged, aloof and frankly a bit dim.
Anyone who is sceptical about the power of social media should compare this from The Guardian this morning “Guardian gagged from reporting parliament” with the twitter stream for #Trafigura. Trafigura, you will remember, are the company responsible for dumping lethal toxic waste in Ivory Coast. The overwhelming sharing of information about the attempt to gag a newspaper from parliamentary reporting is now online here thanks to The Spectator who no doubt feel empowered by the fact that the genie is already out of the bottle on Twitter.
EDIT: At 1.00pm came this tweet from Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian:
Thanks to all tweeters for fantastic support over past 16 hours! Great victory for free speech.#trafigura
It is a struggle for artists to get paid, but surely no artist in their right mind would want to accept a prize from a company with a reputation like Trafigura’s. That would be, ah, toxic to any emerging artist’s career, don’t you think?:
Young Masters will also officially launch an Art Prize which will be continued by the Trafigura Foundation each year. The Art Prize, totaling £4,000, will be awarded to the most talented artist as judged by a panel of highly respected arts professionals. Young Masters is curated by Constance Slaughter and Beth Colocci and is supported by corporate sponsors Trafigura, AXA and Brakes Group.