Accelerate your career by entering these 12 prestigious art prizes

From a prize which invites artists to reflect and respond to a piece of scripture, to Australia's richest photography prize, entering the right art prize can not only prove creatively stimulating but also financially rewarding.
Accelerate your career by entering these 12 prestigious art prizes

The 2018 Hadley’s Art Prize finalists' exhibition, detail. Photo credit: Jessica King.

Winning an art prize is one of the best ways to ensure you’re noticed by the right people, including curators and directors at some of our leading cultural institutions. As well as financially rewarding – who wouldn’t want to win $50,000? – entering an art prize can also get your creative juices flowing in new and unexpected ways.

Here are 12 notable art prizes from around the country that might encourage you to create a new and memorable artwork.



Entries for the 2019 Gallipoli Art Prize are now open, with artists invited to creatively explore and commemorate the spirit of the Gallipoli Campaign.

The Prize requires artists, both professional and amateur, to respond to the Gallipoli Memorial Club Creed values, which include loyalty, respect, love of country, courage and comradeship.

‘Artists can interpret those concepts in lots of other ways apart from the military side of things. It is the Gallipoli Art Prize but it doesn’t have to be about Gallipoli or war,’ explained John Robertson, Chairman of the Gallipoli Art Prize Selection Committee.

Read: Entries open for $20,000 Gallipoli Art Prize


Offering a total prize pool of $100,000, including the $50,000 Moran Contemporary Photographic Prize itself, this national competition celebrates Australian contemporary photography and excellence in all forms of still, photo-based artwork – including analogue and digital photography or staged and directorial photo-media work.

The prize is awarded to an image that portrays life in Australia – the places, the people and the lifestyle that make our country quintessentially Australian. Last year’s winner, Melbourne artist James Bugg, said: ‘One nice thing is that it allows for a lot of diversity in subject matter. Any resident of Australia can enter.’

Read: Australia’s richest photography prize is calling for entries


Not limited to established creatives, this $15,000 art prize encourages artists from all stages of their careers to apply, with entry open to paintings – with the prize guidelines responding to the changing nature of contemporary painting.

‘When the Prize was first established painting was defined as, “working with a liquid medium on a rigid surface,” which is a very traditional perception of painting. Whereas this year, we had a number of works that were paintings in a liquid medium but were not necessarily on a rigid surface,’ said Bayside Gallery’s Curator, Joanna Bosse.

‘We realised the definition needs to be reconceived in order to keep up with contemporary practices.’

Read: An art prize that pushes the boundaries of painting


With the tag line, ‘Australian art. Any medium. All women,’ the Ravenswood Australian Women's Art Prize is set on changing opportunities for emerging and established female artists in Australia.

As artist, educator and prize co-ordinator, Edwina Palmer, explained: ‘All artists have financial challenges – it costs money to make great art. $35,000 really helps. And $5,000 genuinely supports a project. Given the lives women have to lead, raising families and having to work at the same time, we feel the Prize is an important way to support women artists and to let them do the work they want to do.’

Read: Australia’s richest art prize for women is calling for entries


Hadley’s Orient Hotel, established in 1834, is an unlikely setting for one of Tasmania’s most exciting emerging art events.

Early landlord, John Clay Hadley was one of Australia’s earliest art collecting hoteliers who was encouraged by his son (a keen landscape painter). So it is a natural progression that the property has quickly become a leader in the landscape prize genre, offering a $100,000 annual acquisitive prize.

‘Landscape is about where we live and how we relate to and visually represent place; landscape is lived in, experienced, remembered. Sometimes natural, sometimes urban. The Hadley’s Art Prize exhibition highlights the breadth and diversity of contemporary Australian landscape art,’ said Hadley’s Art Prize Curator, Dr Amy Jackett.

Read: $100,000 Landscape Prize in Historic Art Hotel


The Footscray Art Prize is back and now calling for entries from local and national artists. There is no theme to this prize and entries are open across four categories with a total cash prize pool of $17,500. Shortlisted works will be displayed in two major exhibitions in Footscray.

The Prize includes a major award of $10,000 open to established and emerging artists, and also a Street Art Prize valued at $5,000.

‘This year we have a really large wall in the centre of Footscray on Irving Street which is a great canvas for the Street Art Prize,’ said Kerry O’Neill, Associate Director of Engagement Initiatives at Victoria University.

‘It is quite a special site and a prominent site. This year we are going to shortlist three proposals and the one that is selected by the judges as the winner will get the right to present their work on the Irving Street site.’

Read: $17,500 total prize pool: Footscray Art Prize


An art prize with the a difference, the State Library of NSW’s Shortstacks Short Film Prize asks artists and filmmakers to respond to one of six selected items from the Library’s expansive collection.

The six items are currently on display in the Library’s new galleries. They include the manuscript for Dorothy Mackellar’s poem ‘Core of My Heart’ (which contains the iconic ‘I love a sunburnt country’ line), a letter written by a German detainee at Holsworthy Internment Camp in 1919, and painter Herbert Badham’s quirky take on mid-century home life, Domesticity.

‘He’s one of our great unsung early 20th century painters,’ said State Librarian John Vallance. ‘A lot of people had never even heard of him, so we wanted to try and encourage some interest in that.’

There are two prize categories; a $15,000 general prize category open to film-makers 18 years and older, and a $5,000 youth prize for film-makers 17 years and younger.

‘We’re particularly keen to try and connect with a new generation of readers and visitors here,’ says Vallance, ‘so the part of the competition that’s aimed at young people we’re quite excited about.’

Read: $20,000 short film prize delves into State Library NSW’s collection


‘HIDDEN was created as a way to encourage people to visit Rookwood Cemetery and see it as something that does not have to be scary; to demystify the thoughts that people have around cemeteries,’ said Corinn Camps, Rookwood’s Marketing and Events Coordinator.

Entering its 11th year, HIDDEN Rookwood Sculptures is now seeking submissions from emerging and established artists across a wide range of artistic approaches, materials and forms.

‘We’re after artwork that is big and bold. Last year one of the participants had a near-death experience and his artwork was a stairway to heaven, which symbolised his experience,’ said Corinn Camps, Rookwood’s Marketing and Events Coordinator. ‘Another submission dealt with the loss of a close family member and that work was a piece that captured their last moment together.’

Artists accepted into the annual exhibition are eligible for the three main awards up for grabs, including the Rookwood Sculpture Award ($10,000), the Elite Funeral Directors Award, and the People’s Choice Award (both valued at $1,000).

Read: Australia’s most iconic cemetery seeks artworks for outdoor sculpture exhibition

TOORAK Village Sculpture Exhibition

For all of May and the first two weeks of June, Toorak Village, one of Melbourne’s inner south east suburbs, is taken over by sculpture with works exhibited in shop front windows and along the sidewalks of Toorak Road.

Known as the Toorak Village Sculpture Exhibition, the event is a cultural experience that blends business with art, and is coordinated by the Toorak Village Traders.

‘One of the big things about this show is that not only can you win a prize, but each item – and this is important to stress – is for sale. If you have something for sale for $5,000, or it could be $500, you have the opportunity to win a prize and to sell it. There’s a good chance you will get some money in this show,’ said Tony Fialides, Founder and Director of the exhibition and President of The Toorak Village Traders Association.

Read: $10,000 Sculpture Prize up for grabs


Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery’s Still: National Still Life Award, worth $30,000, invites artists across Australia to enter.

‘The themes that underpin still life can be interpreted in really interesting ways because there is an underlying theme of momento mori,’ said Cath Fogarty, Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery Coordinator.

‘Still life provides that grim reminder of the passage of time, and that everything is ephemeral.’

Read: The contemporary still life award that’s resonating with Australian artists


Since 2006, the $50,000 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.  

‘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,’ said Lauretta Morton, Newcastle Art Gallery Director.

Read: Kilgour Art Prize consistently punches above its weight


‘He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God?’

Perth’s Anglican Archbishop Kay Goldsworthy recently proclaimed these sentences, from the prophetic Book of Micah in the Old Testament, as the theme for the latest iteration of the Mandorla Art Award, an acquisitive art prize presented biennially since 1985.

Artists entering the prize are asked to reflect on this Biblical passage and interpret its meaning through their work.

‘The Church used to commission artists to do exactly what we’re asking artists to do today,’ said Kristy Gough, curator of the Mandorla Art Award. ‘Unfortunately we don’t have the means to be able to employ artists on a full time basis as it was done back in the day, but this is a way for us to try and use the visual arts in a more meaningful way … encouraging artists to develop their own interpretation and explore their own emotional connection to the scriptures through their art.’

Read: $42,000 prize asks artists to respond to Biblical theme

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Richard Watts

Tuesday 29 January, 2019

About the author

Richard Watts is ArtsHub's National Performing Arts Editor; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on community radio station Three Triple R FM, a program he has hosted since 2004.

Richard currently serves as the Chair of La Mama Theatre's volunteer Committee of Management, and is also a former Chair of Melbourne Fringe. The founder of the Emerging Writers' Festival, he has also served as President of the Green Room Awards Association and as a member of the Green Room's Independent Theatre panel. 

Richard is a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, and was awarded the status of Melbourne Fringe Festival Living Legend in 2017. Most recently he was awarded the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards' Facilitator's Prize for 2019.

Twitter: @richardthewatts