Here's a review of the current Open Exhibition at Ferens Art Gallery in Kingston upon Hull, City of Culture: A city of imagination is on display at the Ferens - Rich Sutherland.
Nice review, very positive and rightly so. Go see the exhibition yourself; it's well worth while.
Well, first, a declaration of personal interest. I submitted three paintings to the exhibition but the judges, Dr Gabriele Finaldi, Maureen Lipman, and David Mach, did not accept them. Probably because they weren't much good. That's fine, and I got the consolation prize of a free entry ticket to the Exhibition Preview night (which took place a week after the exhibition opened and was free anyway!).
There are about 300 pictures with prices ranging from £25 (I bet the frame cost more than that) to a few grand. But now here's the thing. Not one of the pictures had an obvious political content. There was plenty of stuff that most folk would be pleased to hang on their sitting-room walls but not much that challenged, confronted, questioned or just said "Hey! Stop! Look around you and think!"
Upstairs in the gallery dedicated to the founder T. R. Ferens, there a biographical panel that mentions Ferens' art buying policy; he had excellent judgement but bought safe and uncontroversial works. The Open Exhibition's judges are following his lead, sound choices amongst the safe and uncontroversial.
In another room, thank goodness, we find five of Francis Bacon's popes. Now I'm not saying I'd want one over the sofa but this is art to make one go hmmmm. Bacon: Nervous System.
Maybe I should have submitted a pretty picture of a tree, but that's not the point. Here's what you won't see in Hull; they may be a bit rubbish, but that's not the point either.
Refugees at the Greek Macedonian Border.
Oil on board 55 x 42 cm
Arrival on the Island of Lesbos.
Oil on board 45 x 60 cm