First off, it is great to see new sponsors emerging in the visual arts. We’ve had Davy Stockbrokers enter the field recently, with their portrait award (more here ). And Commercial Finance Ireland had their second outing last night with their ‘All Ireland Student Art Competition’. €5k was on offer to the winner – who was Ross Watson from the University of Ulster – with the same amount going to UU itself; Gary McLoughlin of Ballyfermot College of Further Education took €3000, for second prize, and Lindi Campbell Clause of National College of Art and Design got €2000; again the colleges themselves got equal amounts to the artists, so that a total of €20k was handed over.

This is impressive, in terms of the amounts given away. It’s also impressive that Commercial Finance Ireland have got behind this sponsorship so quickly – they have only been set up in the Republic since three years ago.

There still seem to be a few teething problems, though, and I hope they will be sorted out. The students work to a brief – they were allowed to pick a theme from a list of 13 topics such as ‘Flexibility’, ‘Geography’, ‘Expansion’, ‘Innovation/ originality’. Good corporate buzzwords, in most cases. And the works created by the winning artists, along with the copyright of the images, become the property of Commercial Finance Ireland, for promotional purposes. In other words, what you have here is a hybrid between a design competition and a fine-art competition. I suspect things would sit a lot more comfortably if the competition could decide if it was one or the other. It would also be great to see a few artists on the judging panel. Still, €20k in direct sponsorship is a very good start.