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A more egalitarian art prize

Gina Fairley

An art prize with no finalists finds its strength in a curatorial model exploring contemporary art now at Gosford Regional Art Gallery.
A more egalitarian art prize

Detail of Dana Dion's winning work Spring Energy, which was awarded; mixed media on canvas, supplied courtesy the artist

One of the biggest challenges for an art prize today is defining its point of difference within a highly competitive field. That difference will often take the form of a themed or genre-based prize, perhaps limiting entries to a particular medium or artists to a certain age group. Why? Because comparing apples with oranges is much harder when it comes to judging.

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Gosford Regional Art Gallery has created an identity for its art prize by going against the norm, with the Gosford Art Prize having no finalists.

Averaging over 500 entries received annually from across Australia, a winner only is selected by the esteemed independent judging panel. The gallery’s curatorial team then curate an exhibition, drawing on a range of entries, reflecting the state of making now.  

‘Technically they are not finalists, and the number of artists included in the exhibition is based on the gallery space and the flow of the show,’ explained Tim Braham, Team Leader, Gosford Regional Gallery.

‘It is a great chance to explore new trends and innovation. And because it is a curated show, it gives us a chance each year to look at the prize in a different way. It also helps avoid that repetitious feeling that a lot of prizes have.’

Given the size of the gallery, in the past this has meant that an average of one in three entrants are selected for the prize exhibition. That is a pretty good reason to give it a go.

This more egalitarian, highly curatorial model clearly works, given that the Gosford Art Prize had been a major part of the gallery’s programming since 1970. The winner receives $15,000.

Learn more about the Gosford Art Prize

Braham said the value of a regional art prize is twofold. ‘On the one hand it is providing access to locals to see the talent from around the country, and also creating a name for Gosford and its own art scene.’

‘Traditionally, it is one of our most popular exhibitions across our program. And with about 40% of our visitation coming from outside Gosford and the Central Coast region, that makes for great exposure too,’ Braham said.

Installation view of the Gosford Art Prize; supplied

What’s in a medium?

Braham said that restricting entry to an art prize by focusing on a specific medium was a rather 19th century way of thinking.

‘We are different to a lot of the prizes in that we allow photography and sculpture, for example, to compete freely. It gives a better sense of current art practices, where an artist might create a digital work that is not strictly a photo, or a sculpture might be wall-based. Today artists work across media. This was the driver for scrapping the categories. Plus it encourages that breakdown between media hierarchies,’ he added.

One medium that has been drawn out into a separate prize, however, is ceramics.

Braham explained: ‘It works well as a separate category, and recognises the growing resurgence in contemporary ceramics throughout Australia. We are really hoping to grow this prize.’

The Gosford Ceramic Prize has been running for four years, with the winner awarded $2,000.

What you need to know

The 2018 Gosford Art Prize has a non-acquisitive prize pool of $24,000, and is open to all Australian artists working in any medium. The winner receives $15,000.

The $2,000 Gosford Ceramic Prize is restricted to artists working specifically in that medium.

The only restriction is size. Works may not exceed two meters in any direction. A $30 entry fee applies.

Entries open in July with a closing date of Monday 10 September 2018. Artworks selected for the exhibition must be delivered by the entrant to Gosford Regional Art Gallery between 7-10 September.

The winning works will be announced on 21 September 2018, with the Gosford Art Prize exhibition running from 22 September to 18 November 2018.

Visit www.gosford.nsw.gov.au/gosfordartprize for more details

About the author

Gina Fairley covers the Visual Arts nationally for ArtsHub. Based in Sydney you can follow her on Twitter @ginafairley and Instagram at fairleygina.

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