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$20,000 opportunity for artists

Richard Watts

The impact of the Gallipoli Campaign is discovered anew by each generation; artists are invited to explore its history and legacy through an acquisitive art prize.
$20,000 opportunity for artists

Detail of Sally Robinson's Boy Soldiers, winner of the 2015 Gallipoli Art Prize. 

Today, when we reflect on legacy of the Gallipoli campaign, we think as much about comradeship as about sacrifice; of loyalty as well as loss.

Gallipoli has become a symbol of much more than war for generations of Australians and New Zealanders, and for Turks, who refer to it as the Battle of Çanakkale.

Artists are invited to explore the traits evoked by Gallipoli in works submitted to the acquisitive, $20,000 Gallipoli Art Prize.


John Robertson, Chairman of the Gallipoli Art Prize Selection Committee, stresses it is not a competition that idealises war or glorifies violence – it is a reflection on the qualities which emerge from war.

‘The art prize is not about war, it’s about loyalty and love of country and courage – qualities that you can portray in all sorts of ways, and the artists have been very creative in how they portray those things.’

He said the visual arts were the ideal way to honour the sacrifices made at Gallipoli.

‘It’s enduring and ongoing. A song or a film is ephemeral but a painting is there forever,’ he said.

Gallipoli Art Prize entry details

Now in its 11th year, the Prize is presented annually by the Gallipoli Memorial Club to a work in oil, acrylic, water-colour or mixed, which best depicts the spirit of the Gallipoli Campaign as expressed in the Club’s creed:

We believe that within the community there exists an obligation for all to preserve the special qualities of loyalty, respect, love of country, courage and comradeship which were personified by the heroes of the Gallipoli Campaign and bequeathed to all humanity as a foundation for perpetual peace and universal freedom.

Peter Wegner's Dog With Gas Mask, winner of the 2013 Gallipoli Art Prize

Reflecting the unique bonds of the Gallipoli campaign, the competition is open to artists who were born in Australia, New Zealand or Turkey, or who hold Australian, New Zealand or Turkish citizenship.

While the judges are looking primarily for works of quality, Robertson stressed the importance of the club’s creed when considering works submitted to the Prize. 

‘In doing the selection for the exhibition and then secondly the winners, the portrayal of the idea of the art prize is always there in the background. It’s like someone painting a nude if you like; the anatomy is there but you’re not looking at the anatomy,’ Robertson said.

Learn more about the Gallipoli Art Prize

Sydney-based artist Geoff Harvey won the Gallipoli Art Prize in 2012 with his work Trench Interment, a piece which reflects on life and death in the trenches and the friendships formed under such conditions.

‘It was about Anzac and the trenches that they’d dug and the actual personal objects that they left behind. And I tried to make it very weathered and old, as though it had been left there for years and completely forgotten … It was about mateship, because they actually lived and fought and died in these trenches and that was their home for the nine months that they were there, so I was trying to encapsulate that in the picture,’ Harvey said.

Geoff Harvey's Trench Interment, winner of the 2012 Gallipoli Art Prize.​

Artists seeking to explore the Gallipoli Memorial Club’s creed through their work face several challenges, as Harvey knows from personal experience.

‘You can make pictures about themes but they become historical pictures without aesthetic value … in a way they become like a diagram or something. But when a painting really works, it works on so many levels. You can keep coming back to a painting and discovering more in it, more about it – and that’s the exciting and challenging thing for an artist, to actually work a picture to a point where it encapsulates all of that – the history and what the intention of the painting is but also to have the magic of being a fine art piece,’ he said.

How to enter the Gallipoli Art Prize

Harvey advised artists who are considering entering the Gallipoli Art Prize to avoid clichés and to paint from the heart.

‘It’s always hard to give advice to artists because they’re such diverse people, but what I’ve noticed from the Prize is the ones that are in the show are always very personal pictures. When I read the text that comes with the catalogue it’s clear that they’re very meaningful pictures ... So I think if you’re interested in or have an interest in war imagery or whatever aspect of it that you want to look at, if you’re genuinely interested, it will come through the picture,’ Harvey said.

Robertson’s advice was equally straight-forward: ‘First of all, enter! The more the merrier,’ he laughed.

‘And I’ll repeat myself: it’s not about war. If artists can get back to the values of comradeship, courage, love of country – we’ve had a couple of Aboriginal entrants, who’ve made it into the finals but haven’t actually won, exploring love of country very powerfully.

‘Respect, loyalty – you can portray those things in all sorts of ways and it doesn’t have to be about war. So read the creed, think about those qualities, and go for it,’ he concluded.

Artists wishing to submit an entry to the Gallipoli Art Prize must deliver the work to The Gallipoli Art Prize Organizing Committee, Gallipoli Memorial Club Limited, 12 Loftus Street, Sydney, NSW, 2000, Australia between the hours of 10am – 4pm on Sunday 12, Monday 13 and Tuesday 14 March 2017. Visit for entry guidelines.

About the author

Richard Watts is ArtsHub's Performing Arts Editor and Team Leader, Editorial; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on community radio station Three Triple R.

The founder of the Emerging Writers' Festival, Richard currently serves on the board of literary journal Going Down Swinging and on the Committee of Management for La Mama Theatre. He is a former member of the Green Room Awards Independent Theatre panel, a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, and in 2017 was awarded the status of Melbourne Fringe Festival Living Legend.

Follow Richard on Twitter: @richardthewatts