The Art Renewal Center Is Honoring the Best of Realist Art—by Sending the Winners of its Annual Competition to the Moon


The Art Renewal Center (ARC), based in New Jersey, has maintained a mission of promoting and preserving the tradition of realist art since its founding in 2009. A core tenet in both the ARC’s inception and ongoing operation is the transmission of technical skills—from Old Master to contemporary—needed for creating representational art, as the genre’s presence in schools and studios has dwindled. Today, there are over 85 ARC-endorsed schools and art programs, and an extensive collection of online resources, that together with ARC’s exhibitions and partnerships are bringing 21st-century realist art to the fore once again.

This month, on January 2, the ARC announced the winners and finalists of its 16th International ARC Salon Competition—the largest competition in the world dedicated to contemporary representational art. The salon ultimately received over 5,400 entries from 75 countries.

The top honor of best in show—accompanied by a $25,000 cash prize—was awarded to Mark Pugh for his work (2021). Speaking of his work, Pugh said, “With most of my paintings I try to tell a story. Here a young girl has torn up the pages of a book she was not happy with, while hiding it behind her back. I wanted to make sure the look on her face matched the story being told. The sunflowers behind her reflect her mood, and mirror her stance.”

Other notable entries included Chanel Cha’s (2022), first-place winner in the Portrait category; Narelle Zeller’s (2022), first-place winner in the Still Life category; and Césare Orrico’s (2021), first-place winner in the Sculpture category. Together with the other first-place winners and finalists, these honorees exemplify the creativity and diversity of today’s realist art, as well as the thriving community of artists the ARC has fostered. The organization acquired 11 works, valued at more than $80,000, from the competition for its permanent collection, exemplifying the ARC’s commitment to supporting and preserving realist art and artists.

This summer, an exhibition comprising between 75 and 100 works from the competition will be shown at Sotheby’s flagship galleries in New York, running from July 14 through July 24, 2023. Additionally, the winners’ and finalists’ work will be included in the Lunar Codex‘s “Polaris Collection,” wherein images of the work—either as laser-etched nickel microfiche or on memory cards—will be added to a time capsule on the Griffin lunar lander. The Griffin will be launched and livestreamed by SpaceX in late 2023 and will place the time capsule on the moon.

See a selection of first-place winners below.

Chanel Cha, Dreaming (2022). First place, portrait category. Courtesy of the Art Renewal Center.

Chanel Cha, (2022). First Place, Portrait. Courtesy of Art Renewal Center.

Narelle Zeller, The Weaving (2022). First Place/Still Life. Courtesy of the Art Renewal Center.

Narelle Zeller, (2022). First Place, Still Life category. Courtesy of Art Renewal Center.

Jake Gaedtke, Midnight Shadows (2021). First Place/Landscape Category. Courtesy of the Art Renewal Center.

Jake Gaedtke, (2021). First Place, Landscape category. Courtesy of Art Renewal Center.

Césare Orrico, Bifronte (2021). First Place/Sculpture Category. Courtesy of Art Renewal Center.

Césare Orrico, (2021). First Place, Sculpture category. Courtesy of Art Renewal Center.

Jim McVicker, Begonias and Sunlight (2021). First Place/Plein Air Painting. Courtesy of Art Renewal Center.

Jim McVicker, (2021). First Place, Plein Air Painting category. Courtesy of Art Renewal Center.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here