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2009 Writer’s Prize

by Jennifer Higgie

After reading around 300 entries for this year’s frieze Writer’s Prize, we – myself, James Elkins and Ali Smith – decided to award Jessica Lott the first prize. We liked her review because it was clear, smart, jargon-free and illuminating (it can be read here). She has been commissioned to write her first review for frieze and will receive a prize of £2,000. We also highly commended eight entrants: Christine Brueckner McVay, Ian Cowmeadow, Frederico Duarte, Annette Leddy, Taro Nettleton, Tessa Rapaport, Gabriel Sánchez Sorondo, and Emily Warner.

Judging prizes is, in turn, a fraught, frustrating, illuminating process. It’s easy to let your concentration flag or let something or someone distract you mid-paragraph and it’s inevitable that, by the time you reach the end of a big pile of reviews of uneven quality, the speed of your judgement can be compromised by your levels of tiredness (which only serves to reinforce that the first sentence of any piece of writing is often the most important. It’s there to reel the reader in, however weary – a lesson that a lot of new writers could do with learning). However, nothing distracted us from the happy knowledge that this prize – now in its third year – has encouraged literally hundreds of emerging writers from around the globe to get in contact with us; we had entrants from the USA, Canada, UK, Australasia, Latin America, Europe and Africa. We are grateful to have been contacted by so many hopeful writers and fascinated to gain such insights into what ideas, artists and galleries are being discussed in various parts of the globe.

The high level of response to the prize has vindicated our initial reasons for establishing the prize in 2006 – namely, to promote the discipline of art criticism at an international level. More people than ever are interested in, looking at and thinking about contemporary art – which means that more than ever intelligent criticism and interpretation are needed in order to help people navigate their way through this complex field. Compared to the amount of prizes and residencies offered to emerging artists, there are hardly any international prizes that encourage new writing about art. Hopefully, the frieze writer’s prize will help redress that balance.

I’d like to make one thing clear though – frieze has always encouraged writers to contact us with ideas or feedback. If you’re interested in writing for us, we’re interested in hearing from you. Best thing to do is to email the appropriate editor a brief cover note and include some recent examples of your writing – and if your writing is clear, smart, jargon-free, entertaining, illuminating and original, then it’s more than likely you’ll be hearing back from us with good news.

About the author

  • Jennifer Higgie's photo

    Jennifer Higgie is co-editor of frieze and is based in London.