Newest prize on the block bolsters emerging careers

Extending cash prizes with a solo exhibition and access to collectors via the Michael Reid Gallery network, the National Emerging Art Prize is a solid career bet.
Visitors at National Emerging Art Prize, 2021 looking at art

While the idea of an art prize had been fermenting for about six years among the team at Michael Reid Gallery, the National Emerging Art Prize (NEAP) only took root last year at a time when perhaps artists were needing support more than ever.

But this is not your average art prize – i.e. submit work, show in a finalist exhibition and one lucky person gets a wad of cash. Rather, Amber Creswell Bell, Co-founder and Curator of NEAP, said the gallery was aiming at something different in this competitive landscape.

‘We are very much in the business of connecting collectors and artists. What many prizes do is award artists – without providing that ongoing momentum. We have the ear and the eyes of an audience of collectors, and the means of doing just that,’ Creswell Bell told ArtsHub.

She continued: ‘I have witnessed a great many artists that I know personally win art prizes – followed by a great anticlimax. Throwing cash at an artist is nice, but it is no guarantee of a career path, which I think is actually more sought after by artists.

‘I wanted to develop a prize that not only awarded a generous cash prize, but also helped emerging artists get a foothold on the professional ladder by including a suite of essential non-cash prizes that I know artists are hungry for.’

Co-founding the prize with group gallery Chairman Michael Reid, and the network and resources he has at his disposal, NEAP offers the winning artist/s a full solo exhibition experience with a commercial gallery complete with professional mentoring sessions, marketing, and all the expensive inputs of a show – such as framing, photography, art transport, and flights etc all taken care of. ‘That really is like winning the artist lottery,’ said Creswell Bell.

In reality, NEAP is three prizes in one: a Prize for Emerging Paintings with a total prize pool of $30,000 and a Prize for Emerging Ceramicists offering a pool of $7,000 in prize money. And this year, an Indigenous Art Prize will also be added.  

Being a finalist – or indeed a winner – in an art prize is a really important confidence-building exercise for artists.

Amber Creswell Bell

Creswell Bell assured the judging of the Prize is impartial, determined by a panel of industry professionals drawn from successful commercial artists, industry advocates, institutional representatives, media and collectors.

‘The Michael Reid team is simply administering the prize. What we do offer however is the means to take the winners on a journey beyond just a financial prize.’

Creswell Bell continued: ‘I think the art prize fits into one of the functions we see as intrinsic to our business – and that is to educate. This prize edifies both artists and collectors alike, and in a more “altruistic” sense it is a way of stimulating the industry, which is good for everyone, in particular the artists.’

Learn more about how you can apply.

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. Twitter: @ginafairley Instagram: fairleygina