Kilgour Art Prize consistently punches above its weight

Newcastle Art Gallery is calling for entries to its $50,000 prize for portrait and figurative painting.
Kilgour Art Prize consistently punches above its weight

Judging of the 2018 Kilgour Art Prize, Newcastle Art Gallery

Since 2006, the Kilgour Prize has encouraged innovation and fresh thinking around the genres of portrait and figurative painting. This year, the prize enters its ninth year, and with it comes a certain gravitas – a respectability – which is difficult to achieve in the competitive art fair market.  


Today, Newcastle Art Gallery's Kilgour Prize, which awards $50,000 to an outstanding contemporary artwork, is regarded as one of Australia's major art prizes.

Lauretta Morton, Newcastle Art Gallery Director, told ArtsHub: ‘The Kilgour Prize is competitive because it is possibly one of the most accessible art prizes in Australia. That accessibility leads to a broad and diverse range of entries, and a competitive arena for artists.’

Entries are now open for the 2019 Kilgour Art Prize, closing 28 April 2019.

The Prize is selected by a panel of three judges, and uses an anonymous process. Morton explained: ‘The names of the artists are not revealed to the judges making it an even keel for artists at all levels of experience. It's also a digital entry process – so the prize isn't limited to east-coast artists by geography.’

Between 15,000 to 18,000 people come to visit the exhibition each year, and applications for the Prize are increasing year-on-year from every state and territory, reinforcing that this is most definitely a national prize.

Morton continued: ‘Being a figurative and portrait prize, we receive more than the usual “head and shoulders” approach. The works that catch the eye of the judges are the ones with a unique approach, a different perspective, or something we haven’t seen before.’

Thinking differently has been one of the Prize’s hallmarks in recent years.

Opening of the 2018 Kilgour Art Prize, Newcastle Art Gallery

It's not just rhetoric - being a prize finalist can bolster your career

Last year’s Kilgour Prize winner, Natasha Walsh, also won the Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship and the Mosman Art Prize all within a matter of months, which has significantly bolstered her career as a young artist.  

Morton stressed the value of entering the Kilgour Prize. ‘Being an artist is not easy – and previous winners have stated that the Prize helped reinforce their confidence in continuing to focus on their practice. Certainly, winning a major prize has a way of amplifying your success in the industry.

‘You should feel immensely proud to have won an art prize of any size,’ she added.

Morton said that as a regional gallery director she often travels, and one observation has been that, consistently, the offerings outside the capital cities are testimony to the calibre of the regional industry.

‘Newcastle Art Gallery has an enviable collection and an equally enviable art prize,’ she said.

Being part of that program through the Kilgour Art Prize is one way to ensure you are part of this vital ecology of arts practice.

The need-to-know on entering The Kilgour

The work must be figurative or portrait in genre, that is, representing the human form by means of a figure or likeness. The work must be executed in the painting media including oil, acrylic, watercolour and/or mixed media, and should have been completed during the 12 months preceding the deadline date of 28 April 2019.

There are two prizes awarded: the $50,000 Kilgour Prize and $5,000 for the People's Choice award.

Finalists will be notified by Friday 7 June 2019.

The Kilgour Prize 2019 exhibition will be presented by the Newcastle Art Gallery from 3 August – 13 October 2019.

Join the Kilgour Prize newsletter to be reminded of deadlines.

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Gina Fairley

Monday 28 January, 2019

About the author

Gina Fairley is ArtsHub's National Visual Arts Editor. For a decade she worked as a freelance writer and curator across Southeast Asia and was previously the Regional Contributing Editor for Hong Kong based magazines Asian Art News and World Sculpture News. Prior to writing she worked as an arts manager in America and Australia for 14 years, including the regional gallery, biennale and commercial sectors. She is based in Mittagong, regional NSW.

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