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Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize: One of Today’s Top Contemporary Art Prizes [Interview]

Steven Kenny Painting for the Beautiful Bizarre Magazine Art Prize

“The Ribbons” by Steven Kenny. Oil on canvas. 1st Prize Winner, INPRNT Traditional Art Award, Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize 2019.
This post is sponsored by Beautiful Bizarre Art Magazine. Our partners are handpicked by My Modern Met’s team because they represent the best in design and innovation.

Now in its fourth year, the Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize allows both new and established artists to get their work seen by a wide audience. Focusing on representational art, the prize isn't limited to just classic painting. The innovative prize takes an inclusive approach that includes photography, digital art, illustration, embroidery, art dolls, and more. As an extension of the well-regarded contemporary art publication, Beautiful Bizarre Magazine, the prize offers us a look at the most cutting-edge figurative art of today.

The Australia-based international magazine is a carefully curated and beautifully designed publication that showcases the work of innovative wearable art designers, as well as emerging and mid-career artists and photographers from around the world. “In the more than eight years since our launch, Beautiful Bizarre Magazine has become a voice, a tribe, and a platform for creatives whose work doesn’t always fit neatly into the traditional ‘fine art' box,” shares the magazine's co-founder and editor-in-chief Danijela Krha Purssey.

The 2021 Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize is accepting applications until July 17, 2021. The pool of over $45,000 in cash and prizes is just one reason for artists to be excited. Winners will also get coverage in the magazine, as well as the possibility to exhibit their work in a group exhibition at the Haven Gallery in Long Island, New York.

Grand Prize Winner receives US$10,000 Cash!

My Modern Met had the privileged of chatting with Beautiful Bizarre Magazine‘s co-founder and editor-in-chief Danijela Krha Purssey, where we picked her brain about the Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize. Read on to learn more about how the Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize promotes artists, her best advice for artists who want to enter, and to learn more about the jury and prizes for this year's prize.

Beautiful Bizarre Magazine

Covers (L-R) by Audrey Kawasaki, Camilla d’Errico, Matthew Grabelsky, Yoko d’Holbachie; and on top, Ray Caesar

Can you tell us a little bit about how the Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize started and how it's an extension of the magazine's editorial work?

The Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize is a natural extension of the magazine because it helps to further our core mission, to elevate the status of representational art—particularly figurative art across all mediums and styles—to museums, private galleries, and collectors.

I, as the editor-in-chief of Beautiful Bizarre Magazine, review every entry received for the Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize, and I also curate every issue of the magazine, so the cross-pollination between the two works perfectly. It’s a thrill to discover so many incredible new artists through the Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize each year.

As part of the prize pool, the grand prize winner is interviewed and published in a 10-page editorial in Beautiful Bizarre Magazine and receives $10,000 cash! Plus the first prize winners in each award category also have their work published in the December issue of Beautiful Bizarre Magazine, which beautifully rounds off the prize each year before entries reopen in February the following year.

Oil Painting by Victor Grasso

“A Darkness to End All Daybreaks” by Victor Grasso. Oil on linen. 2nd Prize Winner, INPRNT Traditional Art Award. Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize 2019.

The prize specifically focuses on representational art. Why was it important for the magazine to reward this particular type of art?

Figurative art has been underrepresented and undervalued by galleries and museums globally since the mid-1900s, as curators' and gallery directors' preferences turned away from technical skill and toward abstraction and conceptual art.

However, over the last few decades, artists and collectors in Australia and around the world grew bored of conceptual and abstract art. We were sick of walking into galleries and looking at white walls and rooms filled with work that didn’t create any sort of personal connection with us—that didn’t touch us on a deeper level.

So a shift started and a new art movement was born. What this new movement is called is still up for debate, and will probably be formally named after it has ended, as is the style throughout art history. It is a movement that once again embraces technical mastery, one that again appreciates the skill and many hours of practice that go into creating true works of art. It is a movement that rejects complete abstraction in favor of the figure, both through realism and surrealism, and is of course a reflection of our modern, immersive, highly visual culture. In support of this new growing movement, Beautiful Bizarre Magazine was born.

Beautiful Bizarre Magazine, through both the magazine and Art Prize, is deeply committed to helping shift the paradigm in the global arts industry regarding what is defined and accepted as contemporary “fine art.”

The Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize is an annual non-acquisitive international art prize that celebrates diversity and excellence in the representational visual arts. The Prize seeks to inspire creatives from around the world to pursue a life and career in the arts, and to help careers grow through funding and increased exposure of their work to galleries, collectors, and media globally.

“Giving the practices of representational artists validation and visibility, particularly in the commercial gallery and museum sector where it is still hard to get representation, is what the Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize aims to achieve.”

2020 Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize Custom Glass Trophies

2020 Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize Custom Glass Trophies.

Beautiful Bizarre Magazine Digital Art Prize

“Endangered 1” by Tamara Dean. Digital photography. 2nd Prize Winner, iCanvas Award. Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize 2020.

How is the Art Prize different from other art prizes?

The Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize is an international prize that is unique because it accepts entries from all static mediums including traditional, digital, and photographic media. It also accepts all styles/genres of art including Pop Surrealism, Lowbrow Art, Magical Realism, New Contemporary Art, Fantasy Art, Realism, Hyperrealism, etc. It is an extension of the Beautiful Bizarre Magazine brand aesthetic and is all-inclusive like the magazine itself.

It also offers much more value for the entrants than other prizes. Our goal is to give entrants as much publicity as possible, so we share entries via our website and social media for months while entries are open from February to July each year. We promote the 25 finalists in each award category—RAYMAR Traditional Art Award, INPRNT Photography Award, iCanvas Digital Art Award, Yasha Young Projects Sculpture Award—extensively, and of course, our winners receive an amazing list of prizes including cash, products, and services to help grow their practice.

Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize

“Night Trip” by Philip A. Singer. Oil on linen. Grand Prize Winner. Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize 2020.

“Before winning the 2020 Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize, I had no galleries that could actually sell my work, and very few followers on social media. The Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize was the endorsement my career needed! Now everything has changed – and the prize money was a huge help, particularly last year!” Phillip Singer, Winner of the 2020 Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize

The grand prize winner and the first, second, and third prize winners in each award category also participate in the prestigious annual Beautiful Bizarre Magazine-curated exhibition in the United States, alongside leading artists in their genres, and have their work exposed to a commercial gallery's collector base.

Beautiful Bizarre Magazine Art Prize 2020 Group Show

Beautiful Bizarre Magazine Art Prize 2020 group show at the Modern Eden Gallery in San Francisco.

What's your favorite part of judging the Prize?

Except for myself and my co-founder Richard Purssey, the rest of the Jury Panel changes each year to ensure that the artists that enter are given a great chance to win. In fact, we have had multiple artists who have entered one year but didn’t win, to go on and win in a subsequent year.

The Jury Panel is also made up of artists that are leading their fields. This year we are honored to have Gerald Brom as the Traditional Art Award category juror, Kristine Poole as the Sculpture Award category juror, Ingrid Baars as the Photography Award category juror, and Stanley Artgerm Lau as the Digital Art Award category juror. They work along with representatives from our amazing sponsors, and the Gallery Directors of Haven Gallery on Long Island, New York—where the winners will exhibit later this year.

Award Winning Sculpture from the Beautiful Bizarre Magazine Art Prize

“Spinner of Dreams” by Kristine & Colin Poole. Fired clay, caseins, sterling silver, brass. 1st Prize Winner, Yasha Young Projects Sculpture Award. Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize 2020.

I am very grateful to all our sponsors, particularly our major sponsors: INPRNT, printers of high-quality art prints. INPRNT is run by artists, for artists, and has supported the Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize for the last three years now; iCanvas, printers of high-quality canvas art prints, priced for every lover of art, who have supported the Prize for the 2nd year running; Yasha Young Projects, arts philanthropist and Executive Curatorial Director for the FOR_M, a new institution currently being developed in New York City, who has also supported the Prize for the last two years; and our newest sponsor RAYMAR, creators of the finest panels. They craft their panels with the world’s finest materials to serve as the foundation for your artwork. It is through their championing of the visual arts—particularly during this difficult time of the global pandemic—that has allowed us to help artists' careers grow.

Beautiful Bizarre Magazine Art Prize 2020 Group Show

Beautiful Bizarre Magazine Art Prize 2020 group show at the Modern Eden Gallery in San Francisco.

(continued) Judging is always extremely difficult. Choosing between so many great entries is super challenging, so I personally love the beginning of the process where I get to see every single entry and learn more about the artist and their practice.

I also really enjoy giving our community a voice. Each year we also award a People’s Choice Award Winner, which is chosen by the public via online voting after the 100 finalists are announced. Join our email mailing list to make sure you don’t miss out on your opportunity to vote for your favorite work.

Surreal Digital Collage by Vincent Marcone

“Nothing Can Stop Lleana” by Vincent Marcone. Digital collage. People’s Choice Award Winner. Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize 2019.

Why would you encourage artists, both up and coming and more established, to try their hand at entering?

Because this is the perfect opportunity for artists to get their work in front of both myself, the editor-in-chief of Beautiful Bizarre Magazine, and the directors of Haven Gallery.

Plus the prize pool is amazing. It includes incredible opportunities for not only the grand prize winner, but also the first, second, and third prize winners in each award category. The grand prize winner receives $10,000 cash and prizes, plus each award category winner receives $3,000 cash and prizes.

The other amazing prizes include having their work published in Beautiful Bizarre Magazine (on the magazine and Art Prize websites), having their work shared on our socials to our 1 million+ followers, exhibiting at Haven Gallery, social media advertising packages, Trekell Art Supplies gift certificates, $1,500 worth of art photography and/or fine art archival print reproduction from Static Medium, Wacom One, Creative Pen Display tablet, Wacom Intuos Pro Medium tablets, an annual ArtStation Pro Subscription, Sculpey gift certificates, 1-year unlimited subscription to the Stan Winston School, subscriptions to Beautiful Bizarre Magazine and, most importantly, worldwide exposure.

“The Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize provided the opportunity to exhibit and sell my work at the absolutely gorgeous Modern Eden Gallery (San Francisco), curated by Beautiful Bizarre Magazine. Most importantly, it lifted my heart during a very challenging COVID lockdown and provided an extraordinary exhibition for me to work towards, when most other gallery spaces had to temporarily shut down. I am so grateful for having this amazing opportunity!” Susannah Montague, 3rd Prize Winner of the 2020 Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize, Sculpture Award

“The Golden Fleece” by Susannah Montague. Ceramic, glaze, 22k gold luster. 3rd Prize Winner, Yasha Young Projects Sculpture Award. Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize 2020.

What's your best piece of advice for an artist entering for the first time?

You don’t need to create a new work to enter (but you can if you wish). You can enter the best work from your existing portfolio. Just upload it to the Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize website and fill in the entry form details about yourself and the work. There is no need to send physical artwork anywhere for the judging process, which saves time and money. If you can’t choose, you can enter up to 10 times; and if you work across mediums, you can enter different work across different award categories.

Also, don’t leave entering until the last moment. If you enter earlier, you have more chance of seeing your entry shared on our social media or published on the magazine and Art Prize websites! To enter please visit www.beautifulbizarreartprize.art.

Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize 2020.

“Mulan” by Olga Esther. Oil on panel. 3rd Prize Winner Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize 2018.

What kind of impact do you hope that the Art Prize has on the art world?

I think this quote from incredible artist Julie Bell sums it up perfectly:

“I’m truly grateful that Beautiful Bizarre Magazine has created this Art Prize, inspiring artists to use their best skills and imagination, pushing their own limits. It’s opportunities like this that accelerate the artistic culture of the world for the enjoyment of all of us.” 2019 Honourable Mention, Julie Bell

Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize 2020.

“Oracle to the Sphinx Sisters” by Julie Bell. Oil on wood. Honourable Mention, Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize 2019.

Can you tell us about some of the previous winners?

I am really pleased with the diversity of styles and mediums entered! This diversity is also represented in the winners in previous years. Take a peek below.

I would love to see either photography, sculpture, or digital art artists win the grand prize in the years to come—fingers crossed.

Oil Painting by Daniel Blimes

“Caught in the Current” by Daniel Bilmes. Oil on wood. Grand Prize Winner. Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize 2018.

Daniel Bilmes is a contemporary painter, working in Los Angeles. His approach is characterized by deep personal exploration, combining realism with elements of symbolism and abstraction. Through tactile textures and delicate expressions, his paintings weave together the magical and mundane. His work is at once hopeful and brooding. Realistic and symbolic. Somewhere between the vitality of the Russian circus and the gravitas of a Churchill speech. Daniel began his art education at the age of 8 under the tutelage of his father, the respected artist and educator, Semyon Bilmes. Being immersed in art from such an early age had a profound impact on his personal growth and creativity, laying a lasting foundation of curiosity that continues to drive and inform his work today.

Award Winning Charcoal Drawing by Annie Murphy-Robinson

“Emily and the Ram (conjuring)” by Annie Murphy-Robinson. Sanded charcoal on paper. Grand Prize Winner. Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize 2019.

Annie Murphy-Robinson was born in 1967, and she lives and works in Sacramento, California. Annie works primarily with charcoal, in a style and process unique to her. Her art is usually large scale, this creates more room for detail. She has a B.A. in Fine Art from the University of Southwestern Louisiana and an M.A from California State University, Sacramento. In addition to creating her own work, she also teaches high school art. Annie feels that her work is haunting—the lighting is dramatic, and the subjects questioning and bittersweet. Her greatest influence would be the work of photographer Sally Mann, especially in her controversial Family Pictures series. Annie’s work has been deemed controversial as well for many of the same reasons that Sally’s had. Sally states that “a pre-pubescent child with her shirt off should never be controversial, the problem more than likely lies with the viewer.” Annie’s work is also a diary of sorts, a peek into her private world.

Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize: Website | Facebook | Instagram 

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Beautiful Bizarre Magazine.

Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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