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JAMES BECKETT WINS PRESTIGIOUS PRIZE (article first published : 2003-06-25)

KZN artist James Beckett has recently been awarded the prestigious Prix de Rome, accorded for the category Art in Public Places. He will receive this award on July 4 in Den Haag.

James Beckett matriculated from Carter High in Pietermaritzburg gaining his instruction from Christine Peckham and Val Maggs. Some of his matric art works were displayed in the annual High Schools’ exhibition. He enrolled at Technikon Natal as a fine art student during which time he organised a highly innovative exhibition titled 37 Songs which was held in a disused warehouse at Durban harbour.

A founder member of the Durban Art Gallery’s Red Eye @rt, he is a recipient of the Emma Smith Prize which he used to spend in Berlin in 2000. He spent a two year residency at the Rijks Academy in Amsterdam, one of 60 chosen out of 700 applicants worldwide. He is currently working on his first solo exhibition in Europe which will be shown in Antwerp, Belgium in July and August.

The Prix de Rome is a scholarship created in 1666 concurrently with the French Academy in Rome which was, and still is, housed in the Villa Medici. It was initiated by Colbert, a Minister of Louis XIV, to enable prize-winning students from the Academie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in Paris to spend up to four years in Rome at State expense.

Initially only painters and sculptors were honoured but prizes for architects were added in the 19th century and the system now includes archeologists and art historians.

Prizes were meant to perpetuate academic traditions and during the 18th and 19th centuries, winning the award was the traditional stepping stone to the highest honours for painters and sculptures. Amongst some of those who won the award during this period were David, Fragonard and Ingres. Prizes are still awarded, for tenures of up to three years, to students of the Ecole de Beaux Arts and the system has been adopted by other countries. The Prix de Rome was intended to allow students to study ancient Roman and Renaissance art and architecture in situ and it rested on the academic assumption of the classic status of such art.




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