RAMSAY ART PRIZE - Winner Takes All

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The Ramsay Art Prize is a new $100,000 national art prize supporting contemporary artists under 40.

As well as picking up $100,000, the winning artwork will be permanently acquired by the Art Gallery of South Australia for its own exhibition.

Having been announced earlier this year, Art Gallery Director Nick Mitzevich said the Ramsay Art Prize aimed to provide more motivation to Australia’s younger talent, noting that many artists establish themselves at a young age.

“Generally speaking, artists make their mark early – Tom Roberts painted A break away! when he was 35 years old proving that artists often hit their heights in their early years and that opportunities early on are formative and can change the nature of Australian art.”

Since making these comments there has been discussion as to what relevance a single painting produced 125 years ago has with contemporary art practice in Australia.

This seemingly out of touch reference has been echoed by calls that this enormous art prize is ageist. Not that  supporting 'young' artists is a terrible thing, but what evidence is there that this cut off point should be 40 years of age? In doing so it has also been commented that it is unfavourable to many artists who choose to have families and whose art practice emerge later in life as a result.

In these times of austerity in the arts, it seems to be increasingly the case that financial support is being distributed through mechanisms of winner takes all style competition. This brings its own issues such as the eroding of community by pitting peers against one another - reinforcing outmoded hierarchies of authority; often where artists are not evaluated by peers but by ‘arts professionals’ and ‘experts' - perpetuating the notion that artwork, and artist practices generally, can be measured and ranked.

Mitzevich is also quoted as saying "Opportunities for artists at pivotal moments in their career have the potential to change the course of Australian art."

If this is a true intention of the Ramsay Art Prize then I hope the purpose of this petition is to allow artists a public platform to voice their concerns about the manner in which this is currently happening and provide an opportunity for the Art Gallery of South Australia to make good on its promise.



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