The Ramsay Art Prize, awarded every two years to an Australian artist under the age of 40, is one of the country’s richest. The winning artist, working in any medium, receives $100,000 and the selected work is acquired by the Art Gallery of South Australia.
Named after Diana and James Ramsay, longtime AGSA donors and supporters of contemporary Australian artists, this year marks its second iteration. “The Prize is a significant contribution to [the winning] artist – and respects that artist’s practice to date. Because it’s such a significant prize in monetary terms, it really is something that can make a large difference to an artist’s career,” says Rhana Devenport, AGSA director. As one of the judges for the 2017 Prize, Devenport knows the ins-and-outs of the selection process intimately. Hundreds of artists apply – Devenport says she loves the democracy of the prize – which makes it both interesting and challenging for the judging panel. The finalists’ works will be on display at AGSA for three months.
On the panel this year are Dr Lisa Slade, assistant director, AGSA; artist Richard Lewer; and Russell Storer, deputy director, National Gallery Singapore. Devenport says there were many high-calibre works that could have won the inaugural award – which was ultimately awarded to Sarah Contos for her work, Sarah Contos Presents: The Long Kiss Goodbye – and the standard is just as high this time around
Aside from the opportunity to support and further an artist’s career, the prize is an exciting avenue for collection expansion, Devenport says.
“There is a critical selection that takes place, but finally it’s a collaborative decision and it’s such a rigorous process – days and days and days of debate and very rigorous discussion. And I think that level of conviction is great to have in the mix of the selection process,” she adds.
This year, the winner of the $100,000 Ramsay Art Prize is artist Vincent Namatjira, for his double-sided portrait work titled: Close Contact, 2018.