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‘Old Bands’ by Michelle Roberts selected by Bob & Roberta Smith with the prize of a solo exhibition in 2024.

First prize winner ‘Old Bands’ by Michelle Roberts

A painting by Hastings-based artist Michelle Roberts scooped first prize at the awards ceremony for charity Outside In’s national open exhibition, ‘Humanity’, which presents the work of 80 artists facing significant barriers to the art world and is on show at Sotheby’s New Bond Street until 27th January. Michelle’s painting, ‘Old Bands’, is a carefully detailed composition about music and was created using a combination of paint and brush pens. It was selected by this year’s guest judge, Bob and Roberta Smith, who commented: “It’s an absolutely beautiful painting and I really wanted to see more work by this artist.”

Michelle Roberts works with Project Art Works, a collective of neurodiverse artists and activists based in Hastings who were nominated for last year’s Turner Prize and she will win the prize of a solo exhibition in 2024.  The exhibition ‘Humanity’ will go on to tour the UK this year, showing in Glasgow this summer with Project Ability and at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery in winter 2023.

Bob & Roberta Smith further selected ‘Ophelia’, a self-portrait by artist Gail Henderson, as second prize winner and awarded third place to ‘RNLI Saves Refugees’, an artwork by Ian Barnes who works with supported studio Art Invisible. Both artists won vouchers for art materials and Bob also commented: “It’s a great honour but I don’t really like being a judge, as I think it’s all fantastic. Everybody should win a prize in this kind of exhibition. In a way, they have, because they’ve been exhibiting in  this fantastic space in Sotheby’s in Central London.”

Over 500 works were submitted for this year’s national open exhibition by Outside In, which supports artists facing significant barriers due to health, disability, social circumstance and isolation and was curated by Cornelia Marland and Charlotte Hanlon from Outside In. Three quarters of the selected works on show are by artists who had never previously exhibited with the charity and the diverse range of artwork ranges from painting and drawing to film, photography, sculpture, ceramics and performance art.

Winning artist Michelle has said she is overjoyed to have been awarded first prize and her mother Jenny Roberts describes receiving the news: “Patricia called us and we were in the car on our way to Hastings. I couldn’t believe it. I was shocked and I think Michelle was shocked too. It’s nice to have this effect on people, because paintings speak volumes don’t they and Michelle’s take on things is so different to anyone else’s.”

Patricia Finnegan, Artist Development Lead at Project Art Works has added “It was an absolute privilege to accept the award on behalf of Michelle. I have been working with Michelle since 2015 and have seen her work develop in a wonderful way. It’s very exciting to be working with Outside In to plan and celebrate Michelle and her unique interpretations of all the things that bring her joy.”

Michelle Roberts, 2022

Image: Michelle Roberts at work

Describing this year’s prize-winners, Outside In founder and director, Marc Steene, comments:” Each of the three prize winners strongly reflect their inspiring and moving responses to this year’s theme, ‘Humanity’. The learning and insight into the human condition that this exhibition provides is profound, all the more so for coming from artists not often given centre stage. It illustrates the incredible creativity and wisdom that is on offer if we look beyond the boundaries of convention. ”

Frances Christie, Deputy Chairman, Sotheby’s UK & Ireland, adds: “Sotheby’s has been thrilled to welcome Outside In back to New Bond Street. The charity provides instrumental support to those artists who are often overlooked and we couldn’t be more excited to provide what we hope will be a great platform to showcase their enormous talent in our galleries.“

“We can all make art,” says Bob & Roberta Smith, “and in doing so, we develop our voices – and this exhibition really shows that. It is people working on themselves but also looking at the world and saying important things. And we can all say important things, not just the politicians – everyone can say something important.”

‘Humanity’ at Sotheby’s New Bond Street

For further information, please contact Matt Forbes-Dale at Outside In:

E: [email protected] / M: 07949 039715

About Outside In

Outside In is a catalyst for change. Founded in 2006, it is now an established national charity that aims to provide a platform for artists who face significant barriers to the art world due to health, disability, social circumstances or isolation.

Outside In’s work covers three main areas: Artist development, exhibitions and training. These activities, supported by fundraising and communications, all aim to create a fairer art world by supporting artists, creating opportunities and educating organisations. The charity has just been awarded the Queen’s Award For Voluntary Services for its Ambassadors Programme.

About Project Art Works

Project Art Works collaborates with people with complex support needs, families and circles of support. Their practice intersects art and care, responding to neurodivergence, its gifts and impacts. Challenging paradigms of inclusion, it spans direct practical and holistic support, film, events, projects and exhibitions.

Their studios provide the conditions for a broad range of autonomous and collaborative practices with neurodivergent artists, who take part on their own terms. Alongside the studios, the Support Collective brings together people who care for people with complex support needs where we share our experience and protect our rights through training, resources and advocacy.

Human connection and what it reveals about identity and how we view each other are explored within their work. Their practice continues to respond to the functional and ethical structures of diligence and care, respecting self-determination and privacy whilst working towards greater visibility and understanding of neurodiversity in culture.

Project Art Works is an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation. Alongside neurodiverse artists and makers, the collective includes paid and unpaid caregivers who help each other to navigate through the complexities of health and social care systems.

About Sotheby’s

Established in 1744, Sotheby’s is the world’s premier destination for art and luxury. Sotheby’s promotes access to and ownership of exceptional art and luxury objects through auctions and buy-now channels including private sales, e-commerce and retail. Our trusted global marketplace is supported by an industry-leading technology platform and a network of specialists spanning 40 countries and 70 categories which include Contemporary Art, Modern and Impressionist Art, Old Masters, Chinese Works of Art, Jewelry, Watches, Wine and Spirits, and Design, as well as collectible cars and real estate. Sotheby’s believes in the transformative power of art and culture and is committed to making our industries more inclusive, sustainable and collaborative.



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