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The John Ruskin Prize 2019 exhibition is being hosted at the University's Holden Gallery

Holden Gallery to host The John Ruskin Prize 2019 exhibition

8 February 2019

University staff join expert judging panel for award in polymath’s bicentenary year

The prestigious John Ruskin Prize 2019 exhibition will be hosted at Manchester Metropolitan University in the bicentenary year of the artist, writer and critic’s birth.

Entries to the Prize open on February 8 – Ruskin’s birthday – with 25 shortlisted artists and designers showing their work in the Agent of Change exhibition at The Holden Gallery later in the year.

It is one of several events being held to celebrate Ruskin200, including many that mark Ruskin’s strong association with Manchester where he gave many of his most important lectures – including at Manchester School of Art in 1859.

Ruskin (1819-1900) was an art critic and patron, a skilled draughtsman and talented watercolourist, and a fierce critic of prevailing social and political norms. He wrote about nature and architecture, craftsmanship, geology, botany, Greek myth and education.

John Ruskin [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Driven by his deep faith in social justice, he established the Guild of St George, an educational charity for arts, crafts and the rural economy in the 1870s to right some of the social wrongs of the day and make England a happier and more beautiful place in which to live and work.

The University’s Special Collections is hosting its own exhibition – ‘Ruskin’s Manchester: from Devil’s Dark to Beacon City’ (April 29 to August 23), guest curated by English lecturer and Ruskin expert Dr Rachel Dickinson, who is also co-ordinating ‘The Festival of Ruskin’ in the city throughout the summer.

Dr Dickinson and Professor Tim Brennan, Head of Art at Manchester School of Art, join an elite judging panel for the John Ruskin Prize 2019, including artists Barbara Walker MBE, Hew Locke and Jessie Brennan.

Dr Rachel Dickinson

Dr Dickinson, Principal Lecturer in English and the Guild of St George’s Director for Education, said: “Although he never lived here and actually hated the ‘Devil’s Dark’ pollution and unfair labour of industrial Manchester, bringing the prize here feels like bringing it home.

“In 1859 Ruskin gave a lecture on the ‘Unity of Art’ at the Manchester School of Art, now part of Manchester Metropolitan University, and he presented a little watercolour that’s now in Special Collections.

“The very first Ruskin Society was formed here and in 1904 Manchester put on the first exhibition dedicated entirely to Ruskin.

“The ideas he promoted in his writings, his lectures and his charity (the Guild of St George) about how art, craft, education, localism, sustainability can come together to bring about change and make happier people and healthier communities inspired Manchester in the years surrounding his death, and resonate with Manchester’s resurgence now with its vibrant cultural scene and the local empowerment of Devolution. Hosting the Ruskin Prize in Manchester during his bicentenary year means so much.”

Organised by visual literacy charity The Big Draw and The Guild of St George, the John Ruskin Prize is the fastest growing multi-disciplinary art prize in the UK.

John Ruskin Prize 2017 exhibition

It aims to uphold Ruskin’s beliefs in the power of art to expose universal truths, challenging artists, designers, architects and makers residing in the UK to consider their role as catalysts of change, critics, social and political commentators and material innovators.

This year’s theme is ‘Agent of Change’, with organisers encouraging submissions that address change through observation, innovation, protest and that force us to see old problems in a new light.

Agent of Change closes for entries on May 12, with the Holden Gallery preview and prizegiving taking place on July 11. The exhibition then runs until August 24.

There are three prizes available: £3,000 for the winner, a second prize of £1,000 and a student prize of £1,000. The prize returns following the critically acclaimed prize exhibition ‘Master of All Trades’ held in Sheffield in 2017 attracting an audience of over 44,000 visitors.