We go behind the scenes of the Bridgeman Studio Award 2019 – ‘The Art of Diversity’ judging

  • Alan Firmin
  • Aretha Campbell

Partnering with Verizon Media for the 6th Annual Bridgeman Studio Award, the theme this year was ‘The Art of Diversity’, a cause championed by Verizon through previous campaigns which sparked interest from artists across the globe. As the fastest growing contemporary art competition for artists, illustrators, and fine art photographers, we expected a good response but have been overwhelmed with both the quality and quantity of entries for this year’s theme.

As the Bridgeman Studio Award 2019 closed for entries the entire team was amazed by the volume and quality of entries but most of all the diversity of entries which came from every corner of the globe. To every single artist, illustrator and photographer who entered, we want to thank you because we had an amazing experience viewing such incredible creativity.
With that in mind, we knew walking into the judging room that we were going to have a challenge on our hands to pick a winner. The room was located in Verizon Media’s beautiful offices in Holburn, London, UK. All the judges were present and we had three hours to choose a winner from the shortlisted 100 artists chosen by the Bridgeman Studio Artists team. Artists from 64 different countries made up the shortlist of 100 entries – quite a diverse selection!

The judges were:

Cecilia N’Zaou – Manager, Product Marketing for Publishers & Open Demand Solutions United ERG Global Lead – Verizon Media
Emily Heath – Diversity and Inclusion Manager – Verizon Media
Sinta Tantra – Artist
Zak Ove – Artist
Dirk Hendrickx – CEO – Bridgeman Images
Aretha Campbell – Artists Manager – Bridgeman Images
As the judging process started there were constant compliments and discussions about certain artists that caught the eye. With Zak Ove’s energetic personality and Sinta Tantra’s insightful points of view, the judging process was a pleasure and experience to watch. Conversations between all the judges lit up the room as they delved into the artworks, every artist’s background, additional work, and online portfolios. They were not leaving any stone unturned in their hunt to find the winner.
After a couple of hours, a smaller list of potential winners began to emerge from each judge and then the real discussions began. Like watching a tennis match each judge pitched why they thought particular artists were worthy of taking the grand prize of £5,000, plus top position at the exhibition in the gallery of Yinka Shonibare CBE in London, with Limited Edition Prints and a Tote bag that will be sold for charity (and the profits split between Mama Biashara charity and the artist). An incredible prize that could transform any emerging artist’s career this year – and we had to select one winner!
Finally, the winner was chosen and everyone was stunned with the technical ability of Ken Nwadiogbu from Nigeria. His realistic looking pencil sketches and strong messages were key to standing out amongst all the judges and he is the winner of the Bridgeman Studio Award 2019.

The Winner of the Bridgeman Studio Award 2019: Ken Nwadiogbu

Ken Nwadiogbu (b. 1994, Lagos, Nigeria) creates innovative drawings on various surfaces as he challenges and investigates Black socio-political structures and issues while engaging in multidisciplinary modes of storytelling. Inspired by issues relating to those around him, he began creating works that reflect their struggles, with hopes of making a change in his community.
Popularly known as KenArt, Nwadiogbu is credited for beginning the ‘Contemporealism’ movement, a fusion that is primarily centred around Hyper-Realism and Contemporary art. His works can be found in collections like The Dean Collection, owned by Kasseem “Swizz Beatz” Dean and Alicia Keys; The WASP Rugby team, The Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art, and in the collections of other esteemed personalities.

We interviewed Ken straight after the competition where he gave this answer to winning the Bridgeman Studio Award 2019:

How will winning Bridgeman Studio Award help with your practice as an artist and what does it mean to you?
”No doubt, it is a dream come true but more importantly, it assures me that I am on the right path. In addition, I believe winning this award will be reflected in my artistic practice as a result of my desire to continuously evolve my practice and be the greatest version of myself. Additionally, it means more people will connect with my work, which in turn means I am creating more visibility for African art and influencing change on a larger scale. Lastly, this will inspire a whole lot of young African creatives to believe they can do it because I did it.”

You can read the rest of the interview here

5 Runners up would now have to be chosen

With the winner chosen the attention turned to picking 5 runners up, which was easier said than done. Eventually, 5 worthy winners were chosen and the judges viewed their work with pride, knowing they had pushed, challenged and explored every artist to ensure each had equal opportunity in front of the judging panel.

The 5 Runner Ups will get £500, a limited Edition print exhibited in the gallery of Yinka Shonibare CBE in London (which will be sold with a tote bag), and the profits split between the Mama Biashara charity and artist are as follows:

Gianni Lee Dispenza

Gianna Lee Dispenza (b. 1990 Washington State, USA) works across painting, sculpture, drawing, and installation. Gianna Dispenza graduated from the San Francisco Art institute in 2014 with a BFA in sculpture and is currently living in London, completing her MA at the Royal College of Art. Her works have been shown across the USA, UK, Italy, France, South Korea, and Lebanon and among institutions such as the Victoria and Albert Museum and Saatchi Gallery.

Linnet Rubaya

Linnet Rubaya is a self-taught artist based in Leeds. Born in Harare and raised in London, Rubaya’s artistic journey trailed an unusual path (she holds a degree in Biomedical Science from the University of Brighton) that is paying off this year.

A child of a nurse and a policeman in post-colonial Zimbabwe, Linnet is a self-taught artist born in Harare Zimbabwe and raised in London, England.

She now lives and works in Leeds, England after graduating with a degree in Biomedical Science from The University of Brighton. As a child of the African Diaspora, her search for a home has led her to have many connections to many cities and many stories. With contemporary influences from artists such as Nelson Makamo, Banksy and most notably Kerry James Marshall, Linnet aims to provide a unique commentary primarily for underrepresented people.

Aïcha Fall

Aïcha Fall is a street photographer and finalist of the Independent Photography Award 2019. Born in Abidjan, Côte d´Ivoire, Aïcha Fall lived her childhood there before leaving for France for her studies. Over time, Aïcha learned to create a link between her identity, her culture and her traditions, through Art.

Aïcha is a storyteller and she uses photography to write and tell her stories. As an African woman, she feels a responsibility to authentically represent her African culture, her continent, her heritage, and her community.

Rhea Dillon

Rhea Dillon is a south London born visual artist. Working in film, photography and installations she uses her lens to amplify blackness.

Through films such as PROCESS (a poetic rendering about the management of black hair) and Black Angel (a protest for black freedom and expression), as well as her photography series SISTAHS (a love letter to black sisterhood and friendship), Dillon ruminates on personal stories and extends them into the wider world.

Manifesting the strength of the black diaspora, Dillon’s work carries a presence, which is both urgent and reflective. It fulfills out space in a world which often tries to minimise – even remove – black voices.

Naira Mushtaq

Naira Mushtaq is a multi-disciplinary artist from Lahore, Pakistan. Ms. Mushtaq received her masters from Central Saint Martins with a distinction, as a recipient of the International Vice-Chancellor Scholarship.