Our pick of the biggest and best UK Art Competitions 2019 with dates, deadlines, prizes, past winners and entry fee info…
Art competitions are not for everyone. Hockney once quipped that ‘you wouldn’t call Picasso an award-winning artist, would you?’ Art awards neither make good artists nor confirm bad ones. What they do attest is that a selection of judges like the work – and, if the art gods are smiling, hand over a hefty cheque to prove it.
If you can afford the entry fees and maintain a zen-like tranquillity if your work doesn’t make the cut then you’re all set enter these UK art competitions. If your work does get selected then an exciting exhibition awaits and you can secretly practice that astonished winner’s acceptance speech. Fingers crossed…
Competitions are listed in chronological order by submission deadline date.
Opens for entry. Open to anybody over 18 from any country the RSPP Open Portrait Exhibition runs from the 9th – 24th May 2019 at the Mall Galleries, London. There’s some excellent prizes including the £10,000 Ondaatje Prize and a £3,000 prize for artists under 35 and a £2,000 drawing prize. Entry fee is £15 per artwork and £10 for under 35s. View selected works from the 2016 exhibition for an idea of what kind of work made the cut.
Visit Royal Society Of Portrait Painters
Open for entries. This year’s touring exhibition will begin at the National Portrait Gallery from 13 June to 20th October 2019. The BP Portrait Award has become one of the UK’s most prestigious painting awards since its arrival in 1980. The first prize collects a whopping £35,000 plus a £7,000 portrait commission. There’s a further £32,000 worth of prizes so it’s worth checking the full list of awards and previous winners. Only one portrait painting can be entered with £40 entry fee.
Visit BP Portrait Award
Open for entries. With a prize fund of £15,000 this competition is open to UK based artists, currently studying or within 10 years of art school graduation. Ten short-listed sculptors will receive £1,000 each to create their proposed sculpture at Broomhill Sculpture Park in North Devon. The judges’ overall winner receives £3,500 with the piece becoming part of the Broomhill Art and Sculpture Foundation collection. The ‘Public Speaks’ winner receives £1,500 for the most public votes during the exhibition. Register and pay the £20 entry fee before 31st of January and you’ll have until the 28th of February to submit your proposal.
Visit the Broomhill National Sculpture Prize
Open for entries. The only illustration themed award on the list offers a top prize of £2,000 and a promotion and marketing package. There’s also a new talent prize of £1,000 for students, recent graduates and those new to illustration – see the full list of prizes here. The Awards are broken up into 8 categories from books and editorial to experimental and site-specific work. Single image entries are £25 or you can enter up to 5 images for £45. The FAQ section does a fine job of making everything clearer than this tiny summary!
Visit the World Illustration Awards
2019 competition open for entries. Started in 2014 by Ashurst law firm & supported by Cass Art this is the fifth instalment of the Ashurst art competition with new photography and new media prizes increasing the total prize fund to £9,000. The top prize is £3,000 plus a £500 voucher. See the full list of prizes here. Shortlisted artists will appear in a group show from May to July 2019 and prize winners will exhibit between July and September. You can enter up to 5 works with a fee of £20 for the first work then £10 for each additional entry. There are no restrictions on age or nationality – paintings, photography, mixed media, sculpture are all accepted. See previous prize winners from 2015 onwards.
Visit Ashurst Emerging Artist Prize
2019 competition open for entry. The largest open-submission art exhibition in the world. Limited to 12,000 total entries so get your entry in early to be considered (yep, they all fill up!). 2018’s Summer Exhibition (curated by Grayson Perry) showed over 1,300 artworks with Mike Nelson scooping the £25,000 Charles Wollaston Award for his towering sculpture Big Black. You can enter up to 2 works at a cost of £35 per entry. 2019 exhibition dates are 10th June — 12th August. The RA’s annual art competition is open to UK and international artists.
Visit RA Summer Exhibition
2019 competition open for entries. Run by The David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation the Artist Of The Year award nets the winner an impressive £10,000. While you can enter in any medium (excluding photography, film and digitally created image) there are seven categories/themes to choose from including Urban Wildlife and Animal Behaviour. Up to five entries are allowed at a cost of £25 each (£10 each for DSWF Members, 17-25 yr olds and over 60s). Exhibition & awards will be held at the Mall Galleries, London in May 2019.
Visit Wildlife Artist of the Year
Open for entry. Not your usual art competition – this is a chance to appear on the popular Sky Arts series presented by Joan Bakewell and Stephen Mangan. Filming will take place in April and May 2019 (to be aired in 2020). Here’s a trailer from 2017. The winner receives a £10,000 commission for a British institution’s permanent collection and £500 of art materials from Cass Art. If you’re as comfortable in front of a camera as a canvas then this could be an amazing experience. To enter you’ll need to submit photos of a self portrait, a secondary portrait and an optional third portrait. There are no entry fees. Finalists will exhibit at Clarendon Fine Art Dover Street, Mayfair from Friday 7th to Saturday 15th December.
Visit Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year
2019 competition open for entries. Takes place at the Mall Galleries in London 14th-22nd of June. There are two top prizes of £5,000 and secondary awards of £500 and £300. UK and EU artists over 18 can enter. Entry fees are £15 per artwork or £10 for under 35 year olds (maximum of 6 entries). Paintings, drawings, pastels & original framed prints (not sculptures) are all accepted and must have been completed in the last 2 years.
Visit New English Art Club
VAO Phase 2 open for entries. A non-profit art competition, the VAO is a celebration of artists working in: drawing, printing, painting, photography, digital art and sculpture. With a prize fund of £5,000 the overall winner of the VAO receives a cash prize of £1,000, mentoring package, solo show and an exhibition at Chester Arts Fair 2019. Winners in each category will receive a cash prize of £250. Entries welcome from both UK and International participants. There is a submission fee of £15.00 per work (£10.00 per work for artists under 24) and a maximum of 5 entries per person.
Visit Visual Art Open
2019 prize open for entries. We’ve already crowned Jackson’s Art as the best website for buying art supplies in the UK so it’s fitting that they run a pretty great art prize themselves. The Jackson’s Open Painting Prize has a first prize of £5,000, a People’s Choice Award of £1,000, an Emerging Artist prize of £1,000 and six prizes of £500 in each category of: Portrait/Figure, Animals, Still life/Botanical, Non-representational, Abstract, Landscape/Cityscape/Seascape and Scenes of Everyday Life. Entering the Prize costs only £5 per artwork with a maximum entry of 5 works. Not sure if your work’s a god fit? Read this informative post from former judge, Julie Caves, for more on the selection criteria.
Visit The Jackson’s Open Painting Prize
2019 competition open for entries. Run by The Glaziers Foundation and is open to stained and architectural glass artists and designers of eight years’ standing or less (including students) and this year is for the design of windows at University College Hospital. The winner will receive £2,000 and the commission, if awarded, is worth £12,000. The 2nd Prize is £1,200, 3rd Prize £600 and various other prizes of £300. Prizes are announced on 30th May 2019 at Glaziers Hall, London. Watch this video featuring glass artist Derek Hunt for more details about the competition. Download the full details and entry form (direct link to PDF file here) via the link at the bottom of the website below.
Visit The Stevens Competition
2019 competition open for entry. The winner will receive £10,000 and the chance for their work to be purchased for the Ruth Borchard Next Generation Collection. 120 shortlisted works will be exhibited at Kings Place, London. Open to artists of any age based in the UK and Ireland. Works must be a self-portrait of the artist (alone or as part of a group, figurative or abstract) including drawing, painting, watercolour, print, collage, photo-collage, mixed media, and low-relief sculpture and construction. Submission cost is £25. See the full FAQ’s and entry criteria.
Visit Ruth Borchard Self-Portrait Prize
Entries open on 8th of February. The 4th John Ruskin Prize is organised by the fine people at The Big Draw and Guild of St. George. 2019 competition entry dates to be announced. This year’s theme is: Hand & Eye: Master of All Trades in The Age of Jack – a celebration of the artist as polymath (like Ruskin himself). 2017 marked the first year the prize opened up to makers and craftspeople as well as fine artists over 18 and working in the UK. The top prize winner receives £3000, 2nd prize £1000 and a Student Prize of £1000. 20 finalists will be included in an exhibition at The Millennium Gallery, Sheffield where the three main winners are announced at a private view. Sign up for their newsletter for entry updates. Entry fees are 1 artwork: £12 for 1 artwork, £15 for 2 artworks and £20 for 3 artworks (with reduced rates for students).
Visit John Ruskin Prize
2019 competition open for entyry. Not your usual art competition – this is a chance to appear on the popular Sky Arts series travelling to impressive locations to compete for the title of Landscape Artist of the Year. The winner of each competition gets the added bonus of a £10,000 commission for a British institution’s permanent collection and £500 of art materials from Cass Art. Here’s the trailer for last year’s competition with Joan Bakewell & Frank Skinner hosting. If you’re as comfortable in front of camera as canvas then this could be worth a shot. If you end up missing the deadline watch out for wild card places available until June.
Visit Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year
2019 competition open for entries. A London based fine art award for emerging and established artists with a global twist. Watch this video to learn more about the prize and venues. Winners will receive a one month residency in both the FA Eduction of Art and Design residency centre and The Redtory Art & Design Factory (Guangzhou, Beijing or Macau). The first prize winner will receive £3,000, a public solo exhibition at Sunny Art Centre in London, a one month residency along with a show at a partners’ gallery. Second prize is £2,000, a group exhibition, a one month residency and show. Third prize is £1,000, group exhibition, a one month residency and show. Entry fees are £25 for one artwork, £32 for two artworks, £40 for three artworks and £45 for four artworks.
Visit The Sunny Art Prize
Entries open for 2019 competition on 2nd of April. Open to anyone over 16 born, living or studying in Scotland. The Scottish Portrait Award for Fine Art is for portraits in any 2D or 3D medium – all painting formats, all sculpture formats, collage, printmaking, weaving, photography, digital art or anything else. First prize is £5,000, Second prize £1000, Third prize £500 and a Young Fine Artist Prize of £500. A concurrent competition for black and white photography, The Richard Coward Scottish Portrait Award in Photography has a first prize of £3,000, Second prize £500, Third prize £100 and a Young photographer prize of £500. Artists can enter either or both of the fine art and the photography competitions. Entry fees are £10 per artwork with no more than six entries in each of the competitions.
Visit The Scottish Portrait Awards
2019 entries open in Spring (probably April). In what will be its 32nd year this is the largest prize for contemporary watercolour painting in the UK. Open to all UK artists working with abstract or figurative, contemporary or traditional styles in watercolour and water-based media. Includes a First Prize of £6000, Second Prize of £3000 and Third Prize of £1000. Shortlisted works will be shown at the Mall Galleries, London in September. Artists can submit up to 4 works with an entry fee of £15 per work.
Visit The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition
2019 competition entry dates to be announced. A biennial competition open to contemporary artists born, based or who have studied in the North of England: Cumbria, Durham, Lancashire, Northumberland and Yorkshire. Shortlisted artists will feature in the New Light Prize Exhibition, touring three of the North’s most prestigious venues as well as a week long London exhibition at the Bankside Gallery. This year’s awards include the £10,000 Valeria Sykes Prize, a Patron’s Choice Award of £2,500 and Printmakers’ Prize amongst others totalling over £15,000. Entry fees are £15 for one artwork, £30 for two then £10 per work thereafter. A maximum of 3 works per artist will be shortlisted. Artworks must have been produced within the last 3 years.
Visit New Light Prize
2019 competition entry dates to be announced. An independent competition, open to all artists from anywhere in the world aged 18 or over. Open to all genres of art including oil, acrylic, mixed media, drawing, ink, watercolour, calligraphy & original print; Sculpture; Photography & digital art. £5,000 of cash prizes to be won as well as a London exhibition. See past entries over the last several years on the Art Gemini Prize website. Entry fees: First entry – £20, Up to 3 entries – £45, Up to 6 entries – £70.
Visit The Art Gemini Prize
2018 open for entries. If you’re aware of Aesthetica Magazine you’re probably familiar with the Aesthetica Art Prize. The main prize is £5,000, as well as a group exhibition and £250 of art materials. There’s also a student prize of £1,000 and £150 of art materials. See images and details of previous winners here. Open to UK and international artists with an entry fee of £24 that allows you to submit 2 entries with the option of paying for further entries. categories include Video, Installation & Performance, Photographic & Digital Art, Drawing & Painting and 3D Design & Sculpture. Entry fee is £24.
Visit Aesthetica Art Prize
Wirral Society of Arts biennial exhibition is open to all artists – local, national and international – at all stages in their careers. Prizes of £1,500, £1,000 and £500 will be awarded by a panel of independent judges. There’s a flat fee per artist of £20 for WSA members and £35 for non-members (up to 4 works allowed). The exhibition is to be held at the Williamson Art Gallery, Birkenhead, Wirral, from October to November. Handing-in dates are 15 and 16 September. Deadline for online submissions is 10th of September. Entry forms and further details are available on the Wirral Society of Arts website.
Visit WSA Open Exhibition
Entry dates announced Summer 2019. Running since 1990 (see past exhibitions) this is a quirky and original exhibition featuring small works. Two artists, two collectors and two critics choose both publicly submitted works and works by invited artists. Each selector’s section is hung separately in what becomes six mini exhibitions within an exhibition. The ING Purchase Prize winner receives £5,000 and there are several other prizes ranging from £2,500, £1,000, £750 and £500, with 6 regional winners receiving £250 each. Open to UK based artists – the work must be for sale, and no more than twenty inches (50 centimentres) in any dimension. Artists can submit up to six works which can be two or three dimensional using any media.
Visit ING Discerning Eye Exhibition
No competition in 2019. With a first prize of £20,000 and London solo show this is one of the best art competitions of the year for figurative and representational artists. A further prize of £10,000 is awarded by visitors to the exhibition (at Mall Galleries in central London from 31st Jan to 17th Feb 2018) while five shortlisted artists will each receive £1,000. Open to UK & Continental Europe based artists producing “fresh and topical paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, collages, 3D works, sculpture maquettes”, installations or reliefs. Watch the competition promo video here. Up to 6 works can be submitted online with an entry fee of £15 per work.
Visit Columbia Threadneedle Prize
Can’t believe it’s taken me so long to feature this annual exhibition based in my home city of Edinburgh! The good news is you don’t need to be Scottish or have a Scottish connection to exhibit – as long as you can drop off any chosen works in person. A long list of Awards & Prizes includes the £3,000 W Gordon Smith Awardand an exhibition at the prestigious Open Eye Gallery. If accepted the exhibition runs from the 23rd December – 17th January 2019 at the beautiful Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh. Non-members can submit up to 3 works and at £15 per submission. Members can submit up to 4 works for free with student memberships only £10 a year, recent graduates £20 and other artists £40.
Visit Society of Scottish Artists Exhibition
Entry dates for 2020 to be announced in September 2019. First held in 1957, the John Moores Painting Prize is still going strong as one of the biggest art competitions in the UK with a first prize of £25,000. Last year’s prize had 2,700 entries with 60 artists shortlisted for the exhibition at Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery. This documentary on the prize and its fascinating history (David Hockney is a former winner) is a nice introduction with Alexei Sayle presenting. One painting can be entered (entry fee is £30) by any UK based artist over 18. The exhibition will run from July to November 2020.
Visit John Moores Painting Prize
The Lynn Painters Stainer Prize boasts one of the UK’s biggest prize funds totalling £35,000. Created in 2005 by the Worshipful Company of Painter-Stainers and the Lynn Foundation to encourage the very best creative representational painting and promote the skill of draughtsmanship. The winner in 2019 will receive £20,000 (up £5,000 from 2018) with 2nd place and the young artist award each receiving £4,000. The Brian Botting Prize gives £5,000 for a chosen figurative work (by an artist aged 30 or under) while the Peoples’ Prize awards £2,000. The entry fee is £15 per work (£8 per work for students). See previous winners here.
Visit Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize
Entries open September 2020. The National Open Art Competition is run by The Chichester Art Trust, a not for profit charity. The adult competition is open to UK & Ireland residents over 15 years of age. Those younger can enter the Children’s Competition. There are dozens of prizes in several categories totalling tens of thousands of pounds – the top prizes are £5,000. Watch a video of the 2017 Exhibition and gallery images for an insight into the awards. There’s a £20 registration fee for the adult competition (includes first submission) additional submissions (up to 3) are £20 each. Artists under 24 and over 14 pay £12 for registration and submissions (under 15s pay £5).
Visit National Open Art
2019 competition closed for entry. The annual competition encourages ‘innovation and experimentation in all water-based media’. There’s a top prize of £750 and various other prizes from £250-£500, magazine features to art materials & an exhibition at the Bankside Gallery, London (8th-20th March 2019). See 2018 winners and selections, and 2016 here. Entry costs are £14 per entry with a maximum of 6 entries. Students are able to submit 3 works for a fee of £5. Open to both UK and international artists.
Visit Royal Watercolour Society
And so concludes this UK Art Competitions 2019 post. I’ll add more competition dates when they’re announced. Good luck if you decide to enter any and let me know if you win!