Awards, Prizes and Competitions
In Australia, awards, prizes and competitions are a major component of the arts landscape. They are run by different types of organisations and are not regulated, resulting in a wide variety of procedures and expectations. Artists can find it challenging to navigate the range of entry requirements, terms and conditions, and exhibition processes stipulated by organisers.
Organisers should make the nature or type of the prize clear, and artists should familiarise themselves with this prior to entering.
Acquisitive prizes: In an acquisitive prize, winning artworks are acquired by the organiser for their collection. Artists must consider the prize money offered, and if this will offset the sale price of their artwork if it was selected as a winner.
Non-acquisitive prizes: Non-acquisitive awards offer monetary prizes for winning artworks, though the artworks are not acquired by the organisation, meaning they can still be sold for artist profit.
Prize exhibitions: Many art awards have an exhibition component where entered works are shown to the public.
Prizes with categories: Some competitions include different categories with corresponding prizes, often requiring artists to nominate which category they intend to enter (and therefore which monetary prize they may be awarded). Categories may be based on artform, artist experience level, artist background or other criteria. Where multiple prizes are offered, organisers must make it clear to artists which category their artwork will be entered into and which prizes they will or will not be eligible for, or allow artists to choose this themselves.
Fees and Costs
Some award, prize and competition entries attract a fee payable by the artist at the time of entry, though it is good practice not to charge entrants to participate. Art prizes which have an exhibition component may offer to pay an artists’ fee to artists selected for the exhibition, others may offer works for sale to the public.
Entry fees pose a barrier for artists experiencing financial hardship.
Additional costs arising from selection as a finalist also may prevent artists from participating in competitions. These can include framing, transportation and insurance costs.
Any award, prize or competition which includes First Nations artists should include First Nations representatives on the selection panel.
Organisations must ensure that Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property (ICIP) principles are upheld for any use or adaptation of Indigenous cultural heritage by the competition and award recipients. Additionally, in promotion of the artist and their art practice.
Each state and territory has anti-discrimination legislation, in some states this covers the administration of awards and application forms, see Racial Equity and Representation.
Competitions must also comply with Australian consumer protections and privacy laws.
Responsibilities of Organisations
Terms and Conditions
Organisers of awards, prizes and competitions can empower artists to make informed decisions through the provision of clear, detailed, and accessible terms and conditions of entry. It is essential for artists to be able to determine their suitability for the competition, and ensure that they can meet all entry requirements and obligations prior to entering.
Terms and conditions should be displayed prominently on the website, and linked within the entry form, with the requirement for artists to agree to them prior to submitting an entry.
The entry process and terms and conditions should use plain English, avoiding unnecessary technical language, to specify:
the theme, topic and/or categories of the award, prize or competition
artist/artwork eligibility criteria for the prize
the prizes on offer
entry fees and payment methods
commission rates if artworks are sold during the exhibition
any artist fees offered
artwork restrictions, such as artforms, dimensions, and recency of artwork
any artforms or formats that cannot be supported in the exhibition
any accessibility requirements that must be met by the artist in the work
the framing or presentation requirements of works entered
all entry requirements, including image sizes, naming conventions and required attachments (artist statement, biography, etc.)
alternative modes of application provided such as email, video, or hard-copy form
the location and format of the exhibition
key dates for entries, exhibition period, delivery and return of artworks, and payments
processes for the submission and return of artworks
judges, judging criteria, and judging process, including preselection
processes for delivering works and collecting works in person and via courier
all obligations of exhibiting artists and prize winners
copyright requirements and licensing fees
any cultural permission required by the artist
a warrant by the artist that the work does not infringe upon ICIP, see First Nations
sponsors and partners
contact details for further questions or entry support
Entry processes often pose barriers to artists with particular accessibility needs. Organisers can support artists by providing alternative modes of entry, such as email, video, or hard copy entries. It is good practice to allocate budget and staff time for support with applications.
Other barriers exist, such as short deadlines and strict submission requirements. Organisers are encouraged to adapt their processes to the needs of artists, and actively promote alternative modes of entry.
For more information, see Equitable Application Processes.
Organisations can improve equity by:
charging no fee
charging a lower general entry fee for all entrants, and a higher secondary fee for artists selected as finalists
reducing the cost of entry fees to between $10 and $30 per artwork
offering a discounted rate for entries of more than one artwork
Organisers can assist artists by:
accepting unframed artworks in finalist exhibitions
paying for or sharing transportation costs with the artist
paying for artworks to be insured whilst in transit and for the duration of the exhibition, for damage and theft
accepting the value of the work as provided by the artist
Organisations must adopt inclusive and accessible processes to ensure that artists of all abilities and backgrounds have equal access to entry and that diversity is represented in finalists. Organisers should adopt sensitive and collaborative approaches to enhancing accessibility, inclusion and diversity.
For more information, see Equitable Application Processes.
Fairness in judging is integral to the administration of awards, prizes and competitions. Selection and judging criteria, and the names and credentials of judges for the competition should be announced in advance of entries being accepted. Organisers should implement equitable pre-selection and judging processes to limit any real or perceived bias in judging.
Pre-selection and judging panels should include members of diverse backgrounds and experiences to reflect the artistic community, and to ensure fairness in representation. Organisers can support the development of new judges by providing opportunities and training to members of groups who are underrepresented on judging panels, and putting out open calls for new judges, rather than using the same judges each time.
It is also good practice to provide training and support to decision-makers, including in equity, unconscious bias, conflict of interest and microaggressions.
Prizes or categories aimed at particular communities should include at least one judge of that community. In the case of First Nations awards, it is best practice for a First Nations-led panel to select and judge entries. Alternatively, consultation with a First Nations independent assessor or First Nations representatives is recommended. Additionally, in any prizes where First Nations artists have applied, it is recommended that a First Nations judge be included on the panel and lead the selection of First Nations artists.
Selection and award judges should be remunerated for their inclusion on panels. In some cases, judging may be considered part of an existing salaried role, and judges in this situation might not receive further payment. Remuneration is especially important when judges or independent assessors are invited to participate in order to diversify judging panels.
If artworks will be available for sale during the competition, organisers must clearly state the commission rate they will retain from the sale price, if any. If an artwork is acquired by the organiser during the competition, commission should not be charged.
For more information on commission rates, see Public Galleries Selling Work.
Payment processes and timelines should be specified in the terms and conditions and upheld.
Organisers should aim for optimum transparency in all operations, by disclosing all sponsors and relevant organisational relationships, the purpose of entry fees, and any expected profits so that artists can make an informed decision about whether or not to enter.
For more information, see Sponsorship.
Organisers of all awards, prizes and competitions are responsible for the cultural safety of participants. Organisers should develop sensitive frameworks and processes to maintain cultural safety including staff training in cultural awareness and unconscious bias and should facilitate open dialogue with artists throughout all stages of the competition. Organisers should be receptive and responsive to the cultural concerns raised by artists.
When artworks from First Nations, d/Deaf, Disabled or other underrepresented artists or collectives are selected, organisers should collaborate closely with the artist or their representative to ensure that cultural safety is upheld. Organisers should seek guidance from artists and communities about how cultural safety can be ensured in relation to the:
collection and sharing of information regarding their artwork
presentation of the artwork, and relationship to other artworks in the exhibition
promotion of the artwork
future use of the artwork and images
activities accompanying the exhibition (such as artist talks or workshops)
A proactive approach is recommended to ensure that appropriate cultural permissions are obtained by participating artists.
Responsibilities of Artists
Artists with commercial representation have a responsibility to understand and communicate commission split arrangements with their gallerist.
For more information, see Commercial Galleries and Representation.
Artists are responsible for providing organisers with payment details and GST status, and an invoice if requested.
For more information on GST, see Taxation.
Artists who feel culturally unsafe should discuss their concerns with the organiser, or seek support from other bodies such as NAVA or Arts Law.
Artists must ensure that their work does not infringe ICIP, see First Nations.
It is the responsibility of the award or competition to ensure the process, website, social media, communications and any exhibition spaces are accessible, and communicate the extent of their access provisions. It is good practice to provide a support person to assist artists with entries. Generally, it is the artist’s responsibility to consider, communicate, plan and, where possible, ensure their work is accessible (e.g. video work has captions, audio descriptions available).
If the installation of selected artworks within the exhibition space must follow accessibility requirements (particularly relevant for 3D and performance works), this must be clearly communicated to artists prior to entry, as this can compromise artistic intentions.
If artistic intent is likely to be impacted by installation requirements, the artist should be consulted prior to exhibition.
For more information on accessibility, see Access Rights for d/Deaf and Disabled People.
Organisers can support artists by paying an artist loan fee to those selected as finalists for exhibition. This is recommended if artworks are not available for sale to ensure that there is income for the artist, paid in recognition of the value being provided to the public during the exhibition.
For more information on artist loan fees, see Payment Standards.
Prior to entering a competition, artists should make themselves aware of any impacts to their copyright and moral rights outlined under the terms and conditions. Organisers have the responsibility to clearly state their copyright and licensing intentions, and artists should read this information carefully.
uphold the artists’ copyright and moral rights, and not require artists to forfeit their copyright as a condition of entry
employ non-exclusive, non-commercial licensing for the use of any images of artworks by selected artists only during the exhibition period and for a period of no longer than five years, and clearly specify how images will be used
pay artists licensing fees for images of their artwork that are to be used following the end of the exhibition period
ensure that artists are not put at any disadvantage through infringement of copyright or moral rights as a result of entering a competition or being selected as a finalist
For more information, see Intellectual Property.
Artists and organisers must ensure that ICIP principles are upheld.
For more information, see First Nations.