1. The origin
It all began with La Jeune Peinture Belge, an association that gathered together a group of painters and sculptors from 1945 to 1948. Among the members were names like Gaston Bertrand, Anne Bonnet, Jan Cox, Marc Mendelson, Rik Slabbinck, and Louis Van Lint. James Ensor was the association’s honorary president. The group’s driving force was Robert L. Delevoy, a critic and art historian, director of the Galerie Apollo, and future director of the Ecole Supérieure d’Architecture et des Arts Visuels (La Cambre). The president of La Jeune Peinture Belge was René Lust, a lawyer and a dynamic entrepreneur. His ambition was to manage a group of young Belgian painters and to organise a series of exhibitions abroad for them – which he succeeded in doing: Jeune Peinture Belge exhibited in Paris, The Hague, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Zurich, Bordeaux, Brussels and Oxford.
When René Lust died on 5th June 1948, the association Jeune Peinture Belge fell apart but the desire to promote young art survived. In 1950 a group of collectors, critics and art lovers founded La Jeune Peinture Belge – Fondation R. Lust, an association in memory of René Lust. They decided to award an annual prize to a young artist under the age of 40. Among its founders there were many members from the former association, including the artist Louis Van Lint. Robert L. Delevoy undertook the secretarial functions. The first president of the association was Raymond Delhaye (1950-1961), followed by Pierre Crowet (1961-1984), by Roland Gillion-Crowet (1984-2017) and Amaury de Merode, who is the current chairman.
In 1996 His Royal Majesty King Albert II extended his patronage to the association. Between 1994 and 2001 the association published four periodicals with the title J-Echo, released at the same time of the contest.
3. Short history of the Prize
Over the years the statutes and regulations of the contest have been modified several times. Some of the most important changes are:
- The contest is now open to all artistic media. The term “painter” has been changed to “artist”.
- Each candidate submits three to five works that are not more than three years old. There are no restrictions on subject, technique or dimensions.
- Initially exclusively composed by men, the council accepts gradually women members.
- Since 1963, foreign artists who have lived in Belgium for at least a year may participate.
- Since 1983 the contest has been held every two years.
- In 1986 the candidates’ age limit was reduced from 40 years old to 35 years old.
- In 2003 the jury became international: members are now asked amongst curators and directors of major European Art institutions.
- In 2021, no finalists are chosen, but instead the jury is asked to choose one winner.
4. The prizes
The association awarded the first Prix de la Jeune Peinture for the amount of 25,000 Belgian Francs in 1950. From then on, the prize was given every year to a different Belgian painter under the age of 40.
In 1954 the association introduced a three-yearly prize for sculptors, the Prix de la Jeune Sculpture belge. In memory of the deceased members and thanks to the generosity of their heirs, two new prizes were created: the Prix Emile Langui (in 1983) and the Prix Pierre Crowet (in 1985). After René Magritte died, the Prix René Magritte was given by the artist’s widow. However, this prize was only awarded one time in 1986. In 2005 the ING Group introduced the Prix ING.
New in 2013, ING hands out the ING Prize and the ING Public’s Choice Award. An electronic voting system has been set up on the website to allow the visitors to vote for their favorite artist.The last ING Prize was awarded in 2017.
After more than 15 years of fruitful collaboration, ING did not renew its sponsoring of the BelgianArtPrize in 2021.
The winner of the BelgianArtPrize is still rewarded the Crowet prize, an endowment of 20.000€.
5. History of the jury’s work
- The same person cannot be a jury member two years consecutively.
- The jury was initially composed of members from the Council (collectors). From the 1970’s , the jury also accepted art professionals.
- The number of jury members has changed several times since the creation of the prize. The initial number was nine, then it varied between nine and twelve. In 1971 it was reduced to only three “wise men”, and today it is composed of five people.
- The candidate receives either a prize or an honorary mention. The prize is only awarded if the jury members are unanimous. For example, in 1957 no prize was awarded, but there were three honorary mentions.
- Until 1992 the selection of the works took place on site in the rooms of the Palais des Beaux Arts. In 1994 the association decided it was necessary to make a selection based on dossiers.
- Since 1997 La Jeune Peinture has called upon the expertise of art professionals external to the association.
- Since 2003, the jury has been exclusively composed of international art professionals, in order to have a totally independent view of the quality of the artists’ works.
- In 2007, the Jury did not award the first Prize Gillon Crowet.
- In 2013 a jury composed of Belgian experts has made a pre-selection of around thirty artists. This pre-selection was then given to the international jury for the final selection.
6. J.P.1, J.P.2, J.P.3
In 1975 La Jeune Peinture celebrated its 25th anniversary with an exhibition titled J.P.1, providing an overview of contemporary European painting. The exhibition was also a tribute to the artists that were members of the old movement from 1945-1948, showing a work by each of them. The old movement was confronted to contemporary tendencies, including Conceptual Art, Hyperrealism, and New Figuration, represented by artists such as Gaston Bertrand, Jo Delahaut, Louis Van Lint, Panamarenko, Christian Dotremont, etc.
The association decided to organise a two-yearly exhibition of the youngest Belgian art together with a foreign section in order to broaden the spectrum. Great Britain was chosen. J.P.2 took place in 1979 and was commissioned by Karel Geirlandt, director of the Société des Expositions. The selection committee included Flor Bex, Jean Dypreau, Jean-Pierre Van Tieghem, and Karel Geirlandt, with the support of the British Council. The exhibition featured artists such as Jacques Charlier, Luc Deleu, Denmark, Filip Francis, Bernd Lohaus, Barry Flanagan, David Tremblett, etc.
In 1981 the association changed the formula. The selection committee of J.P.3 chose seven European artists under 40 not yet internationally renowned, or who were not part of any movement. It was the first time that their works were exhibited in Belgium. The American artist Laurie Anderson was the guest of honour with US I-IV.
The three exhibitions took place at the Palais des Beaux-Arts. A catalogue was published for each one of them.
For its 40th anniversary in 1990, La Jeune Peinture Belge invited twenty of its laureates to present works of art dating to the time of their nomination.