The Domino Effect and Prémio Arte Jovem
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven and twelve.
Just picture a sequence of pieces moving with the force of the previous ones, as in a great domino-like chain of events. The factor behind the causality of these cascading events can be characterised by a simple change in thinking, or, often, by an agent of huge proportions. Whether this agent is large or small – such as the touch of a finger on a flat surface -, the reactant of such combustion will always be the one solely responsible for the movement of all the pieces, from the shift of the first to the fall (or, in this case, the rise) of the last.
Carpe Diem Arte e Pesquisa is a contemporary art project founded in 2009, with a programme of cultural activities featuring national and international artists for different audiences. CDAP organises Prémio Arte Jovem, which had its first edition six years ago in Lisbon, in the autumn of 2016. In 2022, the exhibition Prémio Arte Jovem Millennium bcp will be on display until October 15, at CHPL’s Pavilhão 31, also in the Portuguese capital.
The current competitions follow a tradition that dates to Classical Antiquity, whose awards were previously targeted at dramatic authors, when many were held in religious honour to Dionysus. In Athens, during the 6thcentury BC, as assessed by theorist James English, cultural feasts and contests were already part of the Athenian society’s annual agenda. These events were like a platform for public relations between private patrons, publics and artists. According to Madalena Bessa Monteiro, the modus operandi of these festivals resembled today’s awards, in the festive elements and bureaucratic rigour. Curiously, even some mechanisms were already considered part of the old awards’ relational system, such as the steady presence of influential juries and corruptible value judgements.
The awarding of these prizes became recurrent from the late Renaissance onwards, with the creation of the Academies, making the value of artistic production subject to control by national bureaucracies. After a considerable time leap, which includes the various Grand Prix awards, by the end of the 19th century the Nobelpriset was created, consolidating the prizes as a determining factor for modern scientific dissemination and the promotion of humanistic activities.
At that moment, a greater standardisation was established for awarding prizes, something which, in visual arts, is generally constituted by some key elements, such as: the value of the prize to be awarded; the exhibition of the artists’ work, the catalogue and a qualified jury body, besides the objective establishment of the method for selecting candidates and the evaluation criteria.
Within the Portuguese context during the 2000s, the Prémio Novos Artistas Fundação EDP was created. Against the background of scarce (social and professional) growth and mobility, present in the country for a long time, the commitment of Prémio EDP stood out as a breath of fresh air. Despite the compromise in safeguarding innovation in a scenario with a lack of opportunities for new people, the prize, which chose Joana Vasconcelos in its first edition, continues today to repeat the same behaviours of the old social art games. As the Mexican artist Pablo Helguera says, based on the chessboard image.
“(…) the King is the Museum Director; the Queen is the collector or the Board of Directors; the Rooks are the Curators; the Gallerists are the Horses; the Bishops are the Art Critics; and the Pawns represent the Artists. Those who produce can be run over.” 
Art’s social games exist in visual arts awards and competitions to display the intrinsic relationship system. There is the lopsidedness between those selected – who often present work at separate times in their career, in an unequal relationship. Or awarding only one winner in a highly competitive scenario, which invariably generates systemic malaise by not contemplating the quality of the competitors and individualities. Even the patronage, instituted by foundations, is often run by vested interests, entailing an inconsistent award to the winner.
To turn this around, several competitions that defy systemic logic were instituted as recently as the early 2000s. We highlight Anteciparte, created to be a specific competition for finalists from Portuguese visual arts schools, as a platform for the dissemination of new artists. In 2016, Prémio Arte Jovem Millennium bcp emerged to nurture this same longing for change.
The main objective of Prémio Arte Jovem is to display the most recent proposals by young artists, developing a broader spectrum of artistic production in Portugal. By means of a free application for any visual arts finalist in the country, those selected are chosen from the submission of their portfolio, something subsequently done by a renowned jury, different every year. The jury is composed of three outstanding professionals in the field, chosen to provide a unique vote that promotes dialogue between the possible candidates.
Once chosen, the selectees participate in a group exhibition in Lisbon, where they are presented to the public, collectors and the press. Since 2021, the exhibition takes place in the privileged venue of Pavilion 31, where this year’s exhibition also occurs. P31 is a venue at Centro Hospitalar Psiquiátrico de Lisboa, where for 22 years Associação P28 has carried out independent work promoting contemporary artists, while dispelling the stigma of mental illness.
This year’s 2022 exhibition has twelve selectees: Ana Pessoa, Bruno Grilo, Catarina Braga, Francisco Trêpa, Inês Mendes Leal, Inês Varandas, Luís Marques, Maria Luz, Pablo Quiroga Devia, Rita Leitão, Silvestre Quizembe and Tiago Rocha Costa, with the artist Micaela Fikoff. More than one work per artist is presented to create a viewing platform that contemplates the diversity of each participant’s work. In a room brimming with references and thoughts, we witnessed artist Rita Leitão’s abject performance with the collaboration of Maria Peixoto Martins and Leonor Sousa, which brought the exhibition to life in the best feasible way.
Another highlight of the exhibition’s inaugural day was the unsettling effect of Tiago Rocha Costa’s carpet of pests upon the public, inviting, through the ephemeral installation, the viewer to reflect on the discomfort of having in our home that which we always want to repel, in a dichotomy about the inevitability of human relationships with nature. The environment stands out as a common theme in the works presented, perhaps a reflection of what we experienced as a collective during the years of the pandemic.
The finissage takes place on October 15, when the exhibition catalogue and the expected prize winners will also be presented. In 2020, the Turner Prize benefited each of the 10 entrants with €10.000, rather than the usual €100.000 for a single winner. This clarifying environment inspired CDAP, the PAJ organiser, to create 12 separate prizes for each of the selected entrants. However, we must understand that the most important thing is not an exorbitant monetary value, but the follow-up for a more prestigious position within the artistic circuit. The following prizes were gathered: a Trip to Madrid, a Fundação Millenium BCP Acquisition, a Residency – Centro Português de Serigrafia, two Residencies – Associação Inter.meada, an Annual Artistic Residency – A BASE, an individual Exhibition – Abreu Advogados, a Mural LACS in Lisbon, five Private Collector Acquisition Prizes, the Luiz Antunes Maciel Müssnich Acquisition Prize, the João Luís Traça Acquisition Prize, the inclusion in the Múltiplos CDAP and an exhibition at This is Not a White Cube Gallery.
In the past, names such as Fernão Cruz, Fábio Colaço, Beatriz Coelho, Gabriel Ribeiro, among others, have been selected and awarded by Arte Jovem. All renowned artists in the national and international scene of contemporary art.
Prémio Arte Jovem Millennium bcp is defined by the metaphor of the domino effect sound sequence. A succession of events, sparked off by the willingness to present the work of young artists, who can carve out successful careers. The prize is like the touch of a finger on a flat surface, a reverberating delicacy.
Inês Mendes Leal, one of this year’s selected artists, says of her work that “curiosity and observation lead to discovery and then to understanding that drives action”.
Finally, I would say to always be aware of your curiosity towards the new, which can allow unimagined actions and perceptions.
 Monteiro, M. B. (2012). PRÉMIOS DE ARTE PARA JOVENS ARTISTAS: O seu impacto no contexto artístico português entre 2000 e 2010 e especificidades do ano 2007. University of Lisbon.
 English, J. (2008). The Economy of Prestige. Prizes, Awards, and the Circulation of Cultural Value, Harvard University Press.
 Monteiro, M. B. op. cit.
 cit. in Silva, Filipe Rocha da, Observatório da Crítica de Arte, Edições Eu é que sei, Évora, Centre for History of Art and Artistic Research, University of Évora, 2007, pp.10.