Two hours and £25 later, here is what can be learnt from completing the application for Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2016, the prize for final year students or recent graduates of UK art schools. The process is fairly simple and direct, and it pays to become familiar with all the guidelines and requirements before jumping in. Deadline is 6:00PM, Sunday 17 January 2016.

New Contemporaries 2016 – open call

After an afternoon of sitting at the computer, here I am staring into my cup of tea, a bit dazed and realising all the little things I might have done differently on this application form for New Contemporaries 2016.  To start, it may have been more stressful to attempt completion in one sitting; perhaps I might have made this easier by planning for two sittings – one to get familiar with the process and collect the files together, and two to complete the application. Not that the process is difficult – the application in five steps is pretty straightforward, actually, but where I got hung up was in the fairly detailed and precise specifications for allowed file formats (image, video, and audio). Some files had to be reformatted before I could continue. Lessons learnt!

The first step in the application is paying the fee of £25 (which goes to “The administrative costs associated with giving proper attention to the huge number of submissions” that New Contemporaries receives each year). This part, which I did with my PayPal account at the ready from the last application, is simple and takes only a few minutes. Applicants are unable to move forward to the next step until this fee is paid. Before moving on, make note of the ID number provided (in case there are any problems or if you want to stop the process and continue later).

After payment is successful, next is filling out personal information (name, contact details, education, etc.) followed by details about the work(s) you are submitting for consideration. This, again, was simple enough – and it helps a lot here to gather up all photos, videos, audio clips, and information in one place beforehand including dimensions, medium, and practical notes about how the piece is to be experienced.

Justin Fitzpatrick, 'Hermann Hesse', 2014, oil on MDF, in Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2015 at the ICA, London. Image courtesy
Justin Fitzpatrick, ‘Hermann Hesse’, 2014, oil on MDF, in Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2015 at the ICA, London. Image courtesy

The third step might be a bit of a challenge especially for those with limited access to a computer or software (Photoshop, audio editing, etc.) or for people who are not particularly computer-savvy and find that a file needs to be amended, say, to a different format. However, some of the challenges can be avoided by reading the New Contemporaries Submissions Guidelines which clearly outline what kinds of files are accepted, rules, and other practicalities. I somehow misread the specification that NO identifying information was allowed inside the file or in the filename – i.e., the artwork must remain anonymous for the initial selection process. So after uploading six files, and I was about to move to step five, I noticed this rule and had to go back and rename or edit to remove my name from these files.

Step 4 is Equal Opportunities stuff (a snap!) and the final step is ticking a few boxes that you read and understand the Ts & Cs, and that the work submitted is original and your own. Also you must confirm that you understand that once you click the “Submit” button, you do not have another chance to edit/update your application. So perhaps before clicking “Submit”, return to the beginning and go through the first four screens to verify/correct anything that needs attention. It’s recommended to print a copy of your application for future reference, and that’s it! You’re done!

Whether I am short-listed or not, what I learnt from New Contemporaries is surely useful for future applications to other open calls. A final thought which might be helpful (especially if you have the good problem of having to choose from more than one excellent work to submit), other than the process itself, it might be interesting/useful to research the prize/competition history, past winners, and jurors. This knowledge may assist you in focussing on just the right piece of work or may even help you decide if you want to submit this year at all.

Either way, every experience is a learning opportunity. Don’t miss out!

Andrei Costache, 'Column 1', 2014, inflatable, in Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2015 at the ICA, London. Image courtesy
Andrei Costache, ‘Column 1’, 2014, inflatable, in Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2015 at the ICA, London. Image courtesy

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