Hastings Museum and Art Gallery (HMAG) is back celebrating some of the South East’s best artistic talent, alongside national and international work, in the inaugural Hastings Open.

The exhibition will run from 27th August 2020, when the Museum reopens, until 3rd January 2021. It features 91 artworks including painting, photography, sculpture, printmaking, embroidery, ceramics and video, selected by a panel of judges. The panel includes: artist-maker, Ellen Prebble; Kate Adams, CEO of Project Art Works; Patrick Jones of Project 78 Gallery; Kenton Lowe of the blackShed Gallery; and Ben Urban, curator of Flatland Projects.

Talking about the judges’ selection process for the Hastings Open Prize, Kate Adams said,

“During this extraordinary period of contagion and Black Lives Matter, the process of looking at and making decisions about 100s of artworks, all of which were created in another time and place was both challenging and hopeful. It was a strange, slightly disembodied experience – being so removed from detailed knowledge of any of the artists and just responding to work after work ranging in intent, medium, content, aesthetic, etc.

“What was interesting was the way in which the whole began to determine decisions about individual works and how they interacted with the evolving ‘collection’ as it became more concentrated.”

The Hastings Open prize was awarded to Monika Veriopoulos for her charcoal work, In the Wind. The judges were impressed by the depth and subtlety of the work. The prize includes a research residency at Hastings Museum & Art Gallery and solo exhibition at the blackShed Gallery in 2021. More on that nearer the time.

Kenton Lowe said, “I have been delighted to be involved in this project, and there has never been a greater need to support the cultural and creative sector.

There has never been a greater need to support the cultural and creative sector

“With a rise in popularity of artists emerging from the south east of England, over the last 10 years the blackShed has provided a varied programme of exhibitions. I wanted to broaden our experience by collaborating with other partners, whilst we explore working with artists in other ways. The Museum has great heritage and I am very excited to work with the winning artist on their solo show at the blackShed next year.”

Placed further back from the seafront, Hastings Museum and Art Gallery makes an intriguing and somewhat unexpected running mate to the big name galleries on our stretch of coast. The Towner in Eastbourne is running a similar inaugural exhibition, from October to January, called the Towner International. However, rather like the De La Warr Pavilion, HMAG seems to be more closely associated with the town’s artists and a number of community groups. It might not be added to the membership of England’s Creative Coast anytime soon, but with Hastings as its source, the gallery has a lot of talent to draw upon, and, with the Council’s plans for development along Bohemia Road, it might become even more of a cultural centre in the years ahead.

Penguin by Peter Jones Oil on canvas

Ben Urban muses, “It has been extremely exciting to be able to gain a perspective of the breadth of creative practice that Hastings Museum has brought together through the open call. Hastings has a history of needing.”

A number of artworks will be available for purchase, with the sales of these benefiting both the artists and the museum. To manage the number of people in the museum, all visitors will need to book a free, timed ticket in advance.

Tickets are available online up to 14 days in advance on www.hmag.org.uk. If visitors do not have access to the internet, they can book by phone on 01424 451052.

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