The art prize for women that keeps on giving

Australia’s highest value prize for women artists is calling for entries, so give your studio practice that much needed career boost.
woven mat by Indigenous artist Melinda Gedjen

When the Ravenswood Australian Women’s Art Prize held its inaugural edition in 2017, 789 entries vied for the $35,000 top prize. In 2022, despite the difficulties of maintaining a creative career following the pandemic, 1540 artists entered, almost double the number for the Archibald Prize.

Kim Williams, manager of the Ravenswood Australian Women’s Art Prize, says the exponential growth has confirmed that ‘there is that need for the art prize to raise the profile of women artists’.

Along with numbers, the reputation of the prize has also grown nationally, tapping into what some may describe as a movement readdressing gender imbalance across the visual arts sector. Today it is considered the highest value professional artist prize for women in Australia.

‘We have also witnessed an increase in the number of entries by professional artists, indicative of the acceptance of the Prize, and its reputation,’ Williams tells ArtsHub. ‘We really do believe it has contributed greatly to raising the profile of women artists in Australia.’

The annual acquisitive prize is again calling for entries.

There are three prize categories: the Professional Artist Prize of $35,000, the Emerging Artist Prize of $5000 and the Indigenous Emerging Artist Prize of $5000. There is also a People’s Choice Award of $2000 and a $500 Derivan prize pack.

Williams says the greatest challenge women artists still face in their practice today – even more so than managing studio time – is gender disparity and recognition.

‘The fact that there is still male dominance, and that recognition tips in their favour, remains a challenge, and is why this prize is there – to shout out that women artists are great.’

She continues: ‘I think those challenges are easing, and the movement to give women artists greater visibility is one we have witnessed across the globe, right down to our local neighbourhoods, and the tipping effect that an opportunity like the Ravenswood Australian Women’s Art Prize can offer becomes very real in bolstering a career path.’

Williams says that one of the added upsides of the prize is the event is held both face to face and virtually (interactive virtual gallery tour of the finalists’ exhibition, digital online platform and live stream Opening Night where winners are announced), opening the accessibility of the Prize to communities across Australia.

Ravenswood School for Girls. Image: Supplied.

The Ravenswood Australian Women’s Art Prize is not restricted by theme or medium. Rather, artists are encouraged to select an artwork that best represents their practice.

If you are vacillating on entering, Williams advises: ‘Many artists who have previously entered as emerging artists have risen to be considered professional artists, and have cited the prize as the bumper for that to push them through.

‘That is also one of the reasons we have made it as open as possible for emerging artists, with no theme, so their entries can best reflect their practice.’ Williams recalls comments from past finalists who have called the prize as ‘life changing’.

She continues with tips on selecting a work to enter: ‘First, the artwork needs to be created in the last two years. Choose an artwork that inspires you – that hits a nerve and has meaning in your heart. If you create something with passion, that continues through into the work.’

Key dates

  • Applications close 15 February 2023 at midday (Daylight Saving Time Eastern Australia).
  • Winners announced at the Opening Night on 12 May 2023.
  • The exhibition of finalists will be presented from 13-28 May 2023, in Sydney.

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