Ramsay Art Prize (2017)

Famed as the nation’s richest award for young contemporary artists, the Ramsay Art Prize opens its inaugural year with a major exhibition at the Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA).

Building upon the success of the Adelaide Biennial, the Prize is designed to support young and emerging talent by providing a life-changing opportunity.

‘It’s an important legacy project that we hope will build confidence in Australian art, foster young talent and change the way young artists are valued in the canon of contemporary art,’ said AGSA Director, Nick Mitzevich.

Audiences have been captivated by the diverse set of works from the 21 finalists who were chosen by this year’s judging panel of contemporary art specialists. This included Director of the Auckland Art Gallery, Rhana Davenport, Curator of Contemporary Art, Leigh Robb and Sydney-based artist, Nell.

An underlying theme captured in the exhibit is ‘lived experience’ as every piece articulates what it means to exist in modern-day Australia, as a young person.

The first recipient of the $100,000 Ramsay Art Prize was Perth-born, Sydney-based artist, Sarah Contos.

Her winning piece, Sarah Contos Presents: The Long Kiss Goodbye, will be permanently acquired into the Art Gallery’s collection.

‘I didn’t think I was going to win…I’m so grateful,’ said Contos in her humbling and emotional acceptance speech.

ramsay art prize sarah contos tanner muller sarah contos presents: the long kiss goodbye winner
Sarah Contos alongside ‘Sarah Contos Presents: The Long Kiss Goodbye,’ Ramsay Art Prize Winner Announcement/Media Preview, photographed by Tanner Muller, 26 May 2017
ramsay art prize sarah contos tanner muller sarah contos presents: the long kiss goodbye winner
Sarah Contos, Australia, born 1978, ‘Sarah Contos Presents: The Long Kiss Goodbye,’ 2016, photograohed by Tanner Muller, 26 May 2017.

The artwork employs remnants of her practice over the past few years, and are intended to be a reflective time capsule of her career. The series of screen prints and materials across the gigantic guilt also makes reference to eroticism, popular culture and art history.

Accompanying the Prize is the $15,000 Lipman Karas People’s Choice Award, which has been an ongoing component to the exhibition.

Mitzevich says he expects this will reduce the divide between audience member and artist.

‘It gives people the license to have an opinion and foster a culture of armchair spectatorship, where even those who rarely comment on art have something to say,’ said Mitzevich.

Among the more popular artworks is Tony Albert’s Exotica (Mid Century Modern). It presents a collection of bright and intricately detailed designs. His personal connection to Indigenous Australian heritage is represented through imagery that is sometimes covered or included alongside pop culture references and floral creations. Perhaps the main focal point of the piece are the series of ashtrays filled with cigarette butts.

ramsay art prize tony albert tanner muller exotica (mid century modern) Aboriginal Australian art
Tony Albert, Australia, born 1981, Girramay, Kuku Yalandji people, Queensland, Exotica( Mid Century Modern), 2016, photographed by Tanner Muller, 26 May 2017.

Another standout is Natalya Hughes’ Olympia. This vibrant, yet technical approach invites audience members into a world of triangular shapes. With a direct focus on the female body, she seems to have maligned the limits of society by drastically altering its conventions.

ramsay art prize olympia Natalya Hughes tanner muller
Natalya Hughes, Australia, born 1977, Olympia, 2016, photographed by Tanner Muller, 26 May 2017.

The Ramsay Art Prize is financed in perpetuity through the James and Diana Ramsay Foundation. Their generous donations to the Art Gallery of South Australia, and other arts organisations, over the years amount to almost 20 million.

Entries for the 2019 Ramsay Art Prize will open September 2018. Mitzevich offers some advice to those who are considering to submit an application next year.

‘Present your most ambitious work that defines who you are as an artist. We’re looking for excellence and a confident individual approach to art-making in the 21st century,’ says Mitzevich.

Stay updated about key dates and important announcements by subscribing to their emailing list, which can be found via their website: ramsay.artgallery.sa.gov.au. 

Key dates
27 May – 27 August 2017      Ramsay Art Prize exhibition
27 May – 6 August 2017        People’s Choice Prize voting open
11 August 2017                       People’s Choice Prize winner announced

The Ramsay Art Prize
Galleries 8–11
Art Gallery of South Australia
North Terrance, Adelaide SA 5000
Telephone: (08) 8207 7000
27 May – 27 August 2017
Free admission


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