Plymouth Contemporary 2021

'What Would You Do?' Marcus Lanyon, Plymouth Contemporary 2017  

The Arts Institute, KARST and The Box bring you the Plymouth Contemporary 2021, an open submission exhibition that provides a platform for both emerging creative talent, and more established artists working nationally and internationally. This, the third Plymouth Contemporary exhibition since its hugely successful launch in 2015, continues to support new ideas and a risk-taking approach across all art forms with previously featured artists going on to achieve national and international success.

The exhibition will run across The Levinsky Gallery, University of Plymouth, from 19 March – 23 May 2021, and KARST from 13 May – 3 July 2021. Open to contemporary visual artists working in any medium, based nationally or internationally.

Submission deadline: Thursday 12 November 2020, midnight.

Theme: Making It 

What does ‘Making It’ mean in 2021? The act of making, whether moulding and shaping an idea or a physical artwork, often involves failure, breaking, resistance, serendipity and ingenuity – all of which intertwine and overlap as part of the making process. 

Similarly, what does it mean to ‘make it’ as an artist today? From making a difference, activism and DIY culture, to challenging the idea of success and accomplishment, or even overturning traditional notions of presentation and engagement. Plymouth Contemporary invites artists to open up, interrogate, unpick and shake out what 'Making It' might mean in terms of contemporary art practice in 2021.

'Never Saw A Wild Thing Sorry For Itself', Andreea Anghel, Plymouth Contemporary 2017


Artists will be selected by a panel of curators, art directors, artists and professionals from three key cultural change-makers within Plymouth: The Arts Institute, University of Plymouth; The Box, Plymouth and KARST, the largest independent, artist-led contemporary art venue in the region.

To support the growth and development of artists, selection panel will also present a series of awards as part of the exhibition's opening:  

  • Plymouth Contemporary Award, £2,500

  • Special Recognition Award, £1,000

  • New Artist Award, £1,000 - Open to current students or new graduates (Class of 2018 / 2019)

  • 2 x Audience Choice Awards, £250 each

  • Artist Development Award – to include mentoring and support to develop and test new work in The Arts Institute Test Space exhibition 2022.

Submission Guidelines

Artists can submit a maximum of two artworks which have been produced in the past two years, the work must be completed at the time of submission.

Images must be submitted as JPEG files: recommended size 1-5MB, 300dpi.

Video, animation and performance work must be submitted as a Vimeo or YouTube link. Please note that for the selection process, the panel will only watch the first two minutes of the work, the finished work may be longer.  

Please prepare a 50-word biography, a 100-word artist’s statement about your submitted work, a 100-word statement about broader practice, and any relevant web links. These are particularly helpful when the effect, purpose or intent of your work may be unclear from the artwork alone.  

Online submissions only, we do not accept postal entries.

See further information in the online submission form. Terms and conditions of entry apply*.

About the selection panel...

Dr Sarah Chapman is Director of The Arts Institute. She is invested in supporting the development of artists and creative practice and has initiated and collaborated on several high-profile commissions and international festivals, including: Plymouth Contemporary; The AI Film Commission; The River Tamar Project; Horizon and The Atlantic Project. Selected curatorial highlights include: Douglas Gordon: Searching for Genius; the international award-winning Moby Dick Big Read; the Ancient Mariner Big Read and the associated national touring exhibition Mariner, which included commissions by Serena Korda, Grace Schwindt, Lucy & Jorge Orta, and Mary Evans.  


Ben Borthwick is Head of Creative Programme at KARST and an independent curator and writer. He combines working internationally with artist development and community engagement. He was previously Artistic Director of Plymouth Arts Centre (2014-18) and CEO of Artes Mundi (2010-13), the international art prize and exhibition in Cardiff. From 2003-10 he was Assistant Curator at Tate Modern. He has curated exhibitions and commissions by artists including Bruce Nauman, Rose Wylie, Heather Phillipson, Andrea Büttner, Rosa Barba, Gilbert & George, Latifa Echakhch, Ciara Phillips, Shezad Dawood and Clare Thornton and well as group shows, residencies and a long running artist’s moving image programme in Plymouth Arts Centre’s cinema. He was public programmes curator for two editions of miART, the Milan art fair. Ben is also a trustee of Chapter and has served on many other boards and committees, including as Deputy Chair of Visual Arts South West, the acquisitions committee for FRAC Franche-Comté, the selection panel for the British Pavilion at Venice Biennale in 2013 and as National Advisor to Arts Council of Wales.

Heather Phillipson works across video, sculpture, web projects, music, drawing and poetry. THE END, her commission for the Fourth Plinth, Trafalgar Square, was launched in summer 2020, alongside a new online audio work commissioned Art on the Underground. She will also undertake the next annual Tate Britain Duveen Galleries commission in March 2021. Phillipson’s recent solo projects include new works for Sharjah Biennial 14 and the Martin Gropius Bau, Berlin (both 2019), Art on the Underground’s flagship site at Gloucester Road, an online work for the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and a major solo show at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art (all in 2018).  Phillipson received the Film London Jarman Award in 2016, the European Short Film Festival selection from the International Film Festival Rotterdam in 2018 and is also an award-winning poet. A monograph on her work was published by Prestel in 2020.

Manick Govinda is an independent arts consultant, artists mentor, writer and Counterculture Associate. He was formerly Programme Director for SPACE and previously headed Artsadmin’s innovative artists’ development programme for 19 years, which led to producing film & video installations by internationally acclaimed artists such as 2007 Turner shortlisted artist Zarina Bhimji, 2021 Venice Biennale representative for France Zineb Sedira and Paul Hamlyn Foundation Awardee Larry Achiampong. He is a writer and commentator on diversity, freedom of expression and censorship in the arts. He also curates debates, talks and screenings on contemporary themes of identity, belonging, free speech and Brexit. 

Dr Tom Baugh is the Head of Art at Falmouth University where he oversees BA (Hons) Fine Art, and BA (Hons) Drawing, as well as supporting the development of post graduate research and teaching in the field of art practice. Tom previously led the BA (Hons) Fine Art programme at the University of Plymouth, and is an active artist researcher. He adopts various practice methods associated with filmic projection, photography, and enactment, in the context of installation to re-define, and re-think the term ‘diagnosis’. Tom works with artists, social scientists, clinicians, health professionals, individuals, and groups who have experience of mental health concerns, in order to enlighten others regarding the fragility of the human mind, reduce stigma and increase recovery and autonomy.

The Box opened to the public on 29 September 2020. It is a major new museum that brings together significant regional museum and archive collections, tripling the size of the former City Museum and Art Gallery to create a new cultural hub for Plymouth and the South West region. The selection panel includes Former CEO of the Saatchi Gallery, Nigel Hurst, Head of Contemporary Arts at The Box, and Nicoletta Lambertucci, Contemporary Art Curator at The Box.

The Plymouth Contemporary Archive

Plymouth Contemporary 2017

Following the hugely successful launch of the first Plymouth Contemporary in 2015, the 2017 exhibition themed Visions, ran from 15 July to 2 September 2017 across the two venues, The Levinsky Gallery and KARST. Artists were asked to respond to the theme ‘Visions’, a pertinent subject at a time when the world, on the surface at least, seems to be going through turbulent change.

Find out more about 2017 exhibition, winners and the artwork.

Paul Vivian, 'Crouching Billionaire Ghost'

Plymouth Contemporary 2015

Over 1,200 submissions from 450 artists were received from the UK, Ireland, Europe and beyond for the inaugural Plymouth Contemporary in 2015. Digital artwork, scupture, paint, textile, installation and drawing were all displayed in the exhibition.

Find out more about the 2015 exhibition, winners and the artwork.

*Terms and conditions of entry

Online submissions only; we cannot accept postal entries.  

No late submissions will be accepted. The deadline is 00:00 (midnight) Thursday 12 November 2020.  

All entrants must be aged 18 or over at the time of submission.  

To be eligible for the New Artist Award, the artist must be a current student (2020) or recent graduate (2018 and 2019 only).

A maximum of two works per artist can be submitted. Multiple applications will not be permitted. All submitted artworks may be chosen for display, so entries must be available from Monday 8 March to Tuesday 13 July 2021. These dates include transport, installation and the exhibition. No substitutes will be accepted if the artwork is no longer available or has been sold.  

All work must be the artist’s own.

Maximum dimensions: 2D, wall-based work: 2.5 x 2.5 metres (width by height, including frame). 3D, sculpture and floor-based work: 2.5 x 2.5 metres (width by height).

Total weight, including packing materials, must not exceed 100kg.

Entries requiring special installation or equipment should include details in the ‘installation/technical/equipment requirements’ section of the entry form.

The artist is responsible for packing or crating their work.

The Arts Institute and KARST will co-ordinate and cover the cost of transporting* selected works to and from The Levinsky Gallery and KARST (*subject to negotiation in special cases).  

A travel bursary will be available on application to contribute to costs associated with attending the exhibition.

All artworks are submitted at the artists' own risk. Artwork to be displayed in The Levinsky Gallery will be covered by The Arts Institute’s nail to nail insurance.

Artwork for The Levinsky Gallery must be available for collection and return on the following dates:
Collection: Monday 8 / Tuesday 9 / Wednesday 10 March 2021. Delivery dates (for all artwork not sold): Wednesday 26 / Thursday 27 / Friday 28 May 2021.

Artwork for KARST must be available for collection and return on the following dates:
Collection: Week beginning 3 May 2021. Delivery dates (for all artwork not sold): Week beginning 6 July 2021.