'Society of Artists' by Elena Sorokina, chief-curator of Celeste Prize 2014, 6th edition

After a year as artistic director of Celeste Prize, I would like to highlight what I have found to be the most interesting and important aspects of Celeste. Initially conceived as a trans-geographic online network, Celeste offers a platform for emerging artists, responding to their need of contextualization, experimentation and visibility. It serves as an active mediator for discussion about artists work and how it is recognized, represented, promoted and distributed. We could say, Celeste network uses the legacy of historic models of Societies of Independent Artists or Kunstvereine in Germany, adopting it to our internet age. Like these associations, open to anyone who wanted to display their work, Celeste is also based on the principle of open submissions and on the economy of reciprocity. There are no limitations on age, geography or medium. Celeste' mission is to offer a platform of visibility for emerging and mid-career artists working outside the institutional context. 

In the last years, Celeste has become a platform of encounter and meeting between artists and curators. Inviting twelve curators working inside and outside institutional settings, Celeste provides them with an opportunity to get acquainted with new work and discover new artists who come not from the usual channels of arts production and dissemination. Today, in a vastly expanded curatorial field, the role of curators and strategies of curating are radically shifting. However, the creative and intellectual exchange between artists and curators remains fundamental, and the primary curatorial task is still to engage with artists in an insightful dialogue and to contextualize their work, weaving connections between artists, curatorial projects and the public.
Celeste Prize which is held every year, is based on a unique collaboration between artists and curators, representing a model of their constructive interdependence. Artists play a crucial role in the prize, selecting the actual winner in the second stage of the selection process. The selection process is organized in two stages. An international panel of invited curators vote independently from each other, selecting works and projects to be shortlisted. All choices by each curator are visible online. The shortlisted artists are invited to exhibit their work in the final exhibition, this year taking place at Assab One, Milan. Voting the winners allows artists to have an important voice in the process, and to engage with their peers' work.

As a common initiative, we decided to introduce an open jury session before the awards ceremony, conceived as a moment of collective learning and sharing of knowledge. Curators present at the awards ceremony will talk with the public about their experiences, comment on some of the work selected and dialogue with the finalists. 

This year's edition of Celeste Prize featured many interesting projects, with all curators making their choices according to their professional expertise and personal sensibility. We are very happy that Celeste can stimulate many interesting, emerging artists, helping them to establish and develop international contacts with curators and other professionals from museums, alternative spaces and publications.

Andrea Bruciati

La valutazione riguarda una fascia generazionale germinale di pittori che sta dimostrando di potersi confrontare con tele e progetti di ampio respiro: artisti che hanno scelto di lavorare in modo coerente e professionale, perseguendo un percorso di ricerca innovativo e senza compromessi nella tradizione della .pratica pittorica In questa dinamica, colore e segno sono sì dati linguistici autonomi ma altresì costituiscono un canale di osservazione cangiante e in continua metamorfosi. Quello che a me interessa sono soluzioni operative coraggiose e stratificate, che virano il dato fenomenico verso l’apparizione, aprendo sulla superficie una doppia linea interpretativa, di rivelazione e di empatia. Ritengo che per i dieci segnalati valgano queste peculiarità perché il loro vocabolario pittorico si frantuma e reinventa il supporto, creando visioni precipitose in uno spazio concreto.
Evidenzio pertanto in Arriagada, De Angelis, Gramaccia, Sartori Braido, Serafini, Tone, Tusha, Valeri, Yaluff, Zaccagnini, le interpretazioni linguistiche a mio avviso più intriganti ed attuali. Artisti che possiedono delle evidenti potenzialità di crescita e che meritano menzione, anche in vista dell’insieme di opportunità correlate di ordine espositivo ed esperienziale su cui il Combat Prize ha così fortemente investito per questa edizione.

Daria De Beauvais

I chose 10 works by the following artists: Yuko Kokubun, Alessio Larocchi, Caterina Silva, Adrian Tone, Rocio Saenz, Giovanni Sartori Braido, Victoria Arney, Sebastiano Longaretti, Anna Gramaccia, Zach Mory.

“Biotron” is the key word in Yuko Kokubun’s research, imagining a controlled chamber in which magical creatures can come to life. Her bright painting on an animal skin is evocative at once of the neo-geo artistic movement and of an imaginary world that is going beyond science fiction.
Alessio Larocchi’s abstract map is on the verge of dissolving a recognizable image into a labyrinthine metaphor of the artist’s mind. What is on view is a structured absence, a silent tension between empirical map and abstract form.
One could get lost in Caterina Silva’s abstract and evocative oil on canvas. With an expressionist gesture, a use of subtle colors and a monumental scale, the artist imagines “an open form able to go beyond the limits of language in describing reality.”
At the threshold of human and (maybe) digital gesture, Adrian Tone’s painting creates confusion in the looker’s eye. It is an image that seems at the same time transparent and carbonized, in both cases it is like a trace, a torn image on the verge of disappearance.
Urban art seems a good departure point when looking at Rocio Saenz’s work. Human and animal figures are mixed with abstract elements made of drips, patterns and color fields, creating a vivid imagery in which one’s eye could get lost.
Giovanni Sartori Braido’s acrylic on canvas appears as a 21st century still life. Dead animals, fruits and vegetables from classical painting have been replaced here by a screen – from an old-fashioned TV or computer – in dialogue with blurred geometrical shapes.
Representation, memory and our relationships to natural forces – in this case the 2011 Tsunami in Japan – are questioned in Victoria Arney’s etching. On top of an uneven landscape made of debris appears a red dot, covering and unveiling at the same time a frenetic mark making.
This very simple yet extremely evocative watercolor by Sebastiano Longaretti brings to our eyes a surrealist image: a heart seated on an armchair, its arteries becoming tentacles imprisoning the furniture – a mental image coming from the artist’s subconscious?
Anna Gramaccia’s ink on paper is reminiscent of embroidery as well as camouflage. These apparently opposite references are here poetically linked, creating a dreamlike feeling, on the verge of automatic drawing; while the subtle choice of colors evokes watercolor.
Working after a predefined system, Zach Mory proposes an abstract drawing illustrating the repetition of day-to-day life. The question is to find a meaning, be it in art or in society, and to choose if beauty lies in the accumulation or in the details.

Andrew Hunt

My selection was initially based on a search for interesting new critical visual forms. Connected subjects and related themes of appropriation, antagonism and humour started to emerge as I went through the careful process of looking at the submitted work. Anastasia Booth’s Unicorn, for example, consists of a bust with a wig and black horn, and attempts to deal with female sexuality via a critically affirmative, yet indecipherable forerunner Disco Bomb (1989) by Martin Kippenberger, a work that contains a similar bust, this time made from a readymade wig and disco ball. Similarly, Jason File’s Life Copy steals CNN footage of himself performing a role as an expert on terrorism, after a book he co-authored on this subject was published. In turn, 9991/24 (Dynamic Biography) by Richer/Meyer/Marx (Berlin) exaggerates and accelerates an unidentified individual’s life story to an absurd level of international success and failure, through a performance that takes Frank Sinatra’s My Way as it’s starting point.
In many respects, Towel and radiator by Jacopo Trabona contains a similar indecipherable humour to Kippenberger’s aforementioned work in its carful yet impish pairing of objects, this time working with the history of abstraction. And in a more occult manner, ESG The Praying Machine by Txema Novelo and Sola by Mark Aerial Waller meditate on ideas of the cosmos (via rock and roll and mysticism in Novelo’s case, and through the universe, civilisation and the individual in Waller’s) to produce a temporally slow rumination on history through sound and film.
If any work mischievously reflects the selection process for Celeste, it’s Curami by Marika Marchese: ‘Curami’ translates as ‘Take care of me’, ‘Cure me’, or in the contemporary art context ‘Curate me’. In many respects, this final work chose itself.