This is typical of both the traditional and new media - focusing on the negative, when in fact there are plenty of positive things that could be written about Trafigura. Why, only last week I received a press release announcing the Trafigura Arts Prize. In its own words:
The Trafigura Art Prize will be awarded to one of sixteen international artists who have been chosen to exhibit work at the forthcoming Young Masters exhibition, presented at The Old Truman Brewery from 14 October 2009. The winner of The Trafigura Art Prize will be announced on Tuesday 3 November, and the prize will be continued by the Trafigura Foundation each year.
The inaugural prize will be judged by a panel of high profile artists, journalists and historians including Medeia Cohan-Petrolino, Head Curator for the University of the Arts London; Tom Hunter, artist; Lock Anderson Kresler, Christie’s Contemporary Art Department; Averill Ogden, Outset Art Fund, and Gilda Williams, Goldsmith’s lecturer. Prize money amounting to £4,000 will be awarded to the most talented artist.
The Trafigura Art Prize was conceived by respected gallerist Cynthia Corbett, who represents emerging and newly established artists. Corbett is a regular exhibitor and curator at international contemporary art fairs, and promotes an annual programme of off-site and “pop-up” exhibitions at Cork Street, Mayfair as well as the East End. She describes her enthusiasm and reasoning behind the prize: “Young Masters reflects our belief that the contemporary art world has, to a great extent, ignored craft and technical skill when bestowing recognition and awards to young artists. Young Masters and the first Trafigura Art Prize hope to address this partiality towards conceptualism. Young Masters celebrates absolute technical brilliance in homage to the Old Masters, in all fields of contemporary art from painting, sculpture and drawing to photography, video and installation, proving that all media of contemporary practice is capable of meeting exacting technical as well as conceptual standards.”
Young Masters is curated by Constance Slaughter and Beth Colocci and includes painting, photography, sculpture, video and installation by artists who have shown both reverence and irreverence to the Old Masters through their work. The artists include Gemma Anderson, Lluís Barba, Jessie Bond, Charlotte Bracegirdle, Maisie Broadhead, Cecile Chong, Héctor de Gregorio, Alice Evans, Art Basel exhibitors Ghost of a Dream, Kerry Jameson, Valerie Mary, Ali Miller, David Roche, Constance Slaughter, Antonia Tibble and Masaki Yada, all of who reveal images that are familiar icons, often instantly recognisable, yet re-interpreted, distorted and somewhat uncanny.
Frank Runge, Director of the Trafigura Office, London said: “Trafigura is delighted to support the inaugural Young Masters exhibition, presented in association with The Cynthia Corbett Gallery, recognising the talent of emerging and newly established artists. The Trafigura Art Prize reflects our passionate belief in giving people the opportunity to fulfill their potential. The company is proud to support such an exciting exhibition and to pay tribute to the artists displaying their work this year.”
Everyone involved in this new prize should be congratulated for looking past tedious allegations involving the poisoning of a few thousand Africans and coming together in a display of creativity. After all, did not Trafigura head Claude Dauphin himself urge his subordinates to "be creative" in disposing of the toxic filth that was the result of his pursuit of cheap oil?
The exhibition opens tomorrow.
(UPDATE: That gagging order has now been overturned, the netizens were right, it's Trafigura.)
(UPDATE #2, 18 October: I understand that Young Masters has binned the connection with Trafigura - good for them.)