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At last, a miracle

Artist who entered John Moores competition 30 years ago finds a friend in Jesus

Published on September 21st 2010.

At last, a miracle

It's dark. It's unphotographable, yet it's the favourite work of art of judges handing out this year's John Moores Painting Prize.

A denim blue depiction of Jesus Christ has scooped the £25,000 top award, by an artist who first entered the competition 30 years ago.

Spectrum Jesus is a copy of a copy of works painted by notorious art forger Han van Meegeren, who passed his stuff off as those by the Dutch master Vermeer.

If you follow.

Anyroad, it's a case of if at first you don't succeed, keep going. The artist responsible, Keith Coventry first entered the competition as a student at Chelsea School of Art. He said it was something that had to be achieved.

Coventry, who seemed to take the announcement in his stride, is best known for taking part in the controversial late 1990s Sensations exhibition alongside Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst.

He said he was not religious but decided to tackle a Christian image because it had become "very unfashionable" to do so.

This year, almost 3,000 paintings were submitted to the competition which is held every two years. Previous winners include David Hockney, Peter Doig and Richard Hamilton.

The judges included Turner Prize winner Gary Hume, Sir Norman Rosenthal, who was exhibitions secretary at the Royal Academy for 30 years and former Wild Swans member and artist Ged Quinn, who was absent from the awards ceremony owing to a bout of food poisoning.

Sir Norman described the John Moores Prize as "the Oscar of the British painting world" at a party at the Walker last night, where another Norman, Stormin' Norman Killen, spun the discs as the movers and shakers shook hands.

Coventry began his career hosting exhibitions in a squat in London because he could not get into conventional galleries.

Spectrum Jesus is one of a series of around 50 paintings, which are identical except for the colour.

Reyahn King, director of art galleries at National Museums Liverpool, described it as "a fascinating painting by an artist of intellectual depth".

The painting has been bought by the Walker, and the prize was handed out as part of the Liverpool Biennial, which opens on Saturday and runs until 28 November.

The shortlisted paintings go on public display from Saturday too. And, apart from the odd usual few that look like gift wrapping, they are all mostly very good, Confidential can reliably inform you.

The Pope would like it, anyway.

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