03 February 2015

In a world that is slowly and surely being taken over by technology, we have to ask ourselves: 'do the intricacies of what makes us human still matter'? It was this thought that became the driving force behind the creative campaign for the 2015 Barclays L'Atelier art competition.

On the 3rd of February 2015, major role-players in the South African art industry, members of the media and selected VIPs were invited - by none other than Stephan Welz, one of South Africa's leading art experts - to be a part of history by witnessing the unveiling of a revolutionary piece of technology that would forever change the world of art.

Unique algorithm

Stephan Welz, together with the lead engineer and head technician involved in the development of this technology, officially unveiled ANÝ - a revolutionary machine that, at the touch of a button, could produce a piece of art in a matter of minutes. The engineers demonstrated how ANÝ tapped into a subject's thoughts, feelings and emotions and, using a unique algorithm, translated these into style, technique and ultimately medium before producing a thought-provoking and intriguing piece of art.

As you can imagine, this rather upset the audience as they began to understand what this machine would mean for the world of artists; that ultimately, with ANÝ in existence, artists could become redundant. The prospect of ANÝ being mass-produced seemed possible and this realisation had outraged some of those present. Just before chaos erupted, Mr Welz calmly put everything into perspective.

Art needs people

He explained how this had all been a ruse, an elaborate stunt that hit home with an extremely poignant message: in our ever-changing world, the concept that technology can replace almost everything is not too far-fetched. This idea was to be the inspiration for the creative message for the 2015 Barclays L'Atelier art competition: art doesn't need technology to survive. Art needs people. Art needs artists. Art needs you.

"The campaign reminds us how fundamentally important being human is to art," says Dr. Paul Bayliss, Absa Art and Museum Curator. "Yes, machines can do almost everything, but the creative process relies on something that can never be replicated by technology: being human. Art is emotive, it is intuitive and its soul is intrinsically connected to the soul of its human creator. The L'Atelier art competition campaign this year is themed 'Art Needs You'. We hope that this message will resonate with young visual artists who are passionate about their role in creating evocative works of art."

A Risky Idea

"The campaign thought originated from our insight that art and the creation of art is intrinsically linked to our human emotions, intuition, passion and creative expression," says Dana Cullinan, Creative Director at The Jupiter Drawing Room.

"In a world that is being constantly driven by technology, we wanted to create a campaign that would make artists feel a bit unnerved, yet inspired by the future of art and its survival. Although super-fictitious in its approach, we hope we are by no means predicting the future of art. The 'Art Needs You' campaign has the power to create self-belief in oneself as an artist and what an individual can create. This machine we have created will evoke a sense of perspective for the modern artist."

Campaign Rationale

The campaign has three key objectives: to increase awareness of the competition in South Africa and Africa; to increase entries throughout South Africa and, for the first time, throughout Botswana, Zambia, Kenya and Ghana. Importantly, the campaign also commemorates the important 30th anniversary of the Barclays L'Atelier art competition.

The campaign was brought to life in two phases. The first was the event and it had two primary goals: to land the campaign message, "Art Needs You", as well as to inspire the media and guests to spread this message and help uncover top young talent in the visual arts.

The second phase of the campaign is the call-to-entry. This phase consists of print, radio and digital media and will further entrench the message that art cannot exist without artists.

Name of the Machine

"We wanted to give the machine a very personal name, such as 'Sophie' or 'Tim', as we felt it would give the machine more personality and therefore make it more credible. Drawing on our campaign message, 'Art Needs You' we used the 'A' the 'N' and the 'Y' to create ANÝ. We then decided to pronounce it Annie, because she was ‘produced' by a French engineer," says Cullinan.


"It is fitting that this year we have adopted a 'why not?' approach. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the L'Atelier art competition. The world was never imagined from a technological perspective back then, thirty years ago," concluded Cullinan.

The Creation of Art

Entries for the Barclays L'Atelier art competition are now open. This is also the first year that the competition will spread its roots beyond South Africa as we invite young artists from Botswana, Zambia, Ghana and Kenya to enter.

All young artists, self-taught or professionally trained, aged 21 to 35, who are residents and/ or citizens of these countries, are eligible to enter. Entry forms are located on the lateliercompetition.com website, and can be submitted until 6 March 2015.