Master of All Trades: The John Ruskin Prize 2017

Aug 24 2017

Exhibitions & Display Curator Lucy Cooper talks about her work on the current exhibition at the Millennium Gallery - Master of All Trades: The John Ruskin Prize 2017:

This exhibition showcases the work of artists shortlisted for The John Ruskin Prize 2017. The Prize, established by The Big Draw in collaboration with the Guild of St George, is now in its fourth year.

This year artists, makers and craftspeople from across the UK were invited to investigate the theme of the artist as polymath, a multi-skilled master of many disciplines. Over a thousand entries were whittled down to just 27 artists by a judging panel of representatives from The Big Draw, Guild of St George, Museums Sheffield and the contemporary art world. The challenge for the Exhibitions team was to transform an extremely diverse shortlist of artworks into a coherent and compelling exhibition experience.

The exhibition planning began with gathering more information from artists about the details and display requirements of their works. Some of the larger or more complex pieces required extra thought about their location in the gallery or method of display. We had to balance the space needed around objects to allow the best possible access for visitors, and room for the pieces to ‘breathe’, alongside the limited floor and wall space available. Some artworks were too delicate to be on open display, so case requirements were worked out and factored into the exhibition layout. Some of the works this year involved audio visual elements, so needed access to power. As well as practical considerations we had to think about the look and feel of the exhibition; placing together pieces that complemented each other and maintaining sightlines across the space.

Having agreed delivery dates for the artworks we liaised with artists to arrange for them to deliver in person to the Gallery, or to arrive by courier. For all items we carried out condition checks when they arrived, in case of any damage in transit. Where works were extremely delicate, for example Marielle Hehir’s ‘Loudly Lifted and Wildly Broken’, a visual check was a better option than a full physical examination.

Several works this year required extra thought and technical support for their display and installation. Erin Dickson’s ‘Emotional Leak’ must be reconstructed for every new venue where it appears; each of the multiple layers of glass requiring cleaning and careful placement one on top of the other, a process taking several days. Fi Smart’s ‘It Hardly Seems Possible Such Sorrow Has Come’ needed LED lighting installed within the case base to illuminate the inside of the shells. Paul Hazelton’s ‘Time Flies’ needed a bespoke shelf to lift and contain the Perspex cube inside which the artwork is suspended.

Gardening with MorrisDuring the install our technical team worked carefully to install works according to instructions supplied by the artists. Some artists came to oversee the install or to construct part of their work. Winning artist Rosa Nguyen worked in the Gallery to create a unique version of her ‘Gardening with Morris’ installation piece.

After an intense install The John Ruskin Prize 2017 opened with a private view where the winners were announced as follows:

1st prize winner, Rosa Nguyen, Gardening with Morris 

2nd prize winner, Bethan Lloyd Worthington, ‘Have you seen this cup? It could be anywhere here, really.

Student & Graduate Award winner, Fi Smart, It Hardly Seems Possible Such Sorrow Has Come

The final show is a real treasure chest of quirky and beautiful pieces, with something to surprise and delight every visitor.


Visit Master of all Trades: The John Ruskin Prize 2017 at the Millennium Gallery until Sunday 8 October 2017. 


Image: Top: Rebecca Ilett. Spinning Straw into Gold. Image © The Big Draw courtesy of the artist.

Image: Bottom right: Rosa Nguyen, Tableau - Gardening with Morris Year, 2015. Image © The Big Draw courtesy of the artist.


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