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The Best Fine Art Contests and Prizes in 2016

This year’s guide to the best competitions for drawing, painting, sculpture and interdisciplinary art.

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With so many of the world’s top fine art awards only accessible through private selection, it can sometimes seem like most of the covetable fine art awards aren’t accessible to the rest of us.

However, this year we found a selection of fine art awards that are available to independent artists. These contests and prizes are up for grabs; you just have to throw your name into the hat.

From award giants like ArtPrize offering $500,000 in prizes, to smaller, niche operations like The International Biscuit Festival Art Exhibition offering $1,000 and a spot in Biscuit Hall of Fame, there’s enough variety for every artist to find what they’re looking for.

Here are 2016’s best fine art contests and prizes:

Rachel Rose, 2015 Winner

Frieze Artist Award

Deadline: February 2016
Fee: None
Prize: £20 000 for project production

The Frieze Artist Award is a major opportunity to present ambitious, site-specific work as part of the Frieze Projects programme. The Award is open to UK and international artists between 25–40 years of age.

Artists are invited to propose a new work to be realized at Frieze London 2016 as part of its critically acclaimed Frieze Projects programme, produced under the guidance of curator Raphael Gygax and the Frieze Projects team. If chosen, your project is given £20,000 to be created.

Should you enter?

Yes. Frieze is one of the world’s leading contemporary art fairs, and this could be your big break.

Scott Pope, 2015 Best in Show

Southworks Annual National Juried Art Exhibit

Deadline: February 2016
Fee: $35 members, $25 for members
Prizes: $1000 Best in Show, $500 each for 1st Merit 2-D and 3-D, $200 each for three Merit Awards, and $100 for People’s Choice

Southworks Juried Art Exhibit is a national juried art exhibition in its 21st year. It brings in several hundred applications from talented artists across the nation, but the most exciting part is that the works are all judged anonymously. This requires each piece of artwork to be accepted or denied based solely upon the level of quality each piece exhibits in relation to the other entries and completely eliminates any notions of elitism and reputation.

Should you enter?

Yes. If you are an artist above the age of 18 living within the United States you need to consider entering Southworks. Southworks offers the rare opportunity to display your work without the chains of status or reputation that are known to sometimes plague artists. Who knows what could happen.

Annabelle and Guy by Matan Ben-Cnaan, 2015 Winner

BP Portrait Award

Deadline:  February 2016
Fee: $60
Prize: $45 260 USD, plus, at the judges’ discretion, a commission worth about $7,000 to be agreed between the National Portrait Gallery and the artist.

The Portrait Award is in its thirty-seventh year at the National Portrait Gallery and 27th year of sponsorship by BP. The award prides itself on being the most prestigious portrait painting competition in the world and is intended to foster portraiture in artists’ work around the world.

Submissions must be predominantly painted in oil, tempera, or acrylic on canvas or board. Requirements are strict, and no pastels, watercolors, or works on paper are considered for this award. Artists can submit only one entry, but submissions are open to everyone over 18 years of age.

Should you enter?

Yes. If you paint portraits, then you have to enter this award. As if over $45,000 wasn’t enough, the chance to have your work displayed at the National Portrait Gallery is an experience many artists only dream of. The award gives you a shot at unprecedented exposure, and bragging rights for life, so even if you don’t win, you can always say you took part in the most prestigious portrait competition in the world.

Bethany Taylor, 2015 Winner

Tallahassee International Juried Competition

Deadline: February 2016
Fee: $20 per 2 works
Prizes: $1000 - $500

The great part about the Tallahassee International Juried Competition is that all art mediums eligible for consideration, letting artists not feel constrained by specific formats like canvas painting or sculpture. The competition is organized by the Florida State University Museum of Fine Arts and juried by faculty from the College of Fine Arts. It’s open to all artists worldwide over 18 years of age.

Should you enter?

Most definitely! The fact that all mediums are welcome in the Tallahassee International Juried Competition is a rare and exciting fact, opening the doors for all sorts of creativity and innovation. Who know, maybe the next Basquiat will be there.

Katie Dobson Cundiff, 2015 Winner

Paint Annapolis Plein Air Competition

Deadline to enter: February 2016
Fee: $35
Awards: $15 000

Paint Annapolis is a five-day juried plein air painting competition held from May 30 to June 5, 2016. It takes place outside in Maryland’s sunny capital city Annapolis and its aim is to bring painters together from around the world. The event prompts applicants to explore colonial architecture, marine atmosphere, and the overall energy of Maryland’s capital city as well as the former capital of the United States. The paintings created are put on display in Annapolis from June 5 – 12.

Should you enter?

Yes, the Paint Annapolis Plein Air Competition is refreshing painting competition in every sense of the word. It’s true that painting can be isolating work, but this competition brings painters together from all over the world to paint outside in the sunshine and fresh air while getting to know each other and sharing their work. Even if you don’t end up winning the grand prize, we can think of a few worse ways to spend five days.

Janet Dance, 2015 Juror’s Choice

The Academy Center of the Arts Annual National Juried Art Exhibition

Deadline: February 2016
Fee: Free
Prize: $1000 for Best in Show, plus more cash prizes

The Juried Art Exhibition is sponsored and held at The Academy Center of the Arts, which provides educational resources and community enrichment through arts initiatives. Its ultimate goal is to serve as an educational resource and improve public safety and economic development in underserved neighborhoods in the US.

Should you enter?

Yes, if you want to make a difference, the Juried Art Exhibition is a fantastic place to start as it offers a huge amount of art and enrichment for underserved neighborhoods. Entry is open to U.S. residents, 18 years or older, working in the disciplines of painting, sculpture, drawing, printmaking, fiber, glass, metal, ceramics, wood, metal and mixed media.

Madiha Abdo, 2015 Winner

Chelsea International Fine Art Competition

Deadline: March 2016
Fee: $45
Prize: $70 000 total

Hosted by NYC’s Agora Gallery, the Chelsea International Fine Art Competition is an opportunity to gain exposure for your work plus prize money. The competition is open to visual artists from around the world at any stage in their careers. Artists are invited to submit in any of the following mediums: painting, sculpture, photography, drawing, mixed media, and print.

Should you enter?

Yes. This competition could be the boost your artwork needs to hit the international level.

Wayne Dodson, 2015 Winner

VMRC Juried Art Exhibition

Deadline: March 2016
Fee: $35 for up to three entries
Prize: $7000 + commission on sold work

The VMRC Juried Art Show is an American art show featuring a variety of one-of-a-kind works of art that demonstrate mastery of design, technique, and creativity. The exhibition is held at Park Gables Gallery where thousands of viewers come to vote for their favorite works. Entries must be original work created after January 1, 2014.

Should you enter?

Absolutely. The VMRC Juried Art Exhibition is the perfect way to get your work out on public display and win some cash at the same time. The loose entry criteria lets artists submit some of their favorite existing pieces of work. Entrants must be American residents 18 years of age.

Tarrer Pace, 2015 Best in Show

International Biscuit Festival Art Exhibition

Deadline: March 2016
Fee: $35 for up to three works
Prizes: $1,000 in cash prizes + 40% commission

This exhibit is all about the biscuit, literally. Calling it “the most perfect of foods,” The International Biscuit Festival Art Exhibition celebrates all forms of biscuit and encourages artists to embrace the unusual subject matter and let their creativity rise to new levels. Works may be created in all 2D & 3D medias, and all work must be completed within the past 2 years.

Should you enter?

Do you like biscuits? We can guarantee you’ll never meet another festival quite like this one. It attracts over 20,000 biscuit lovers to downtown Knoxville each year. The event has been featured in Southern Living, Garden and Gun, the New Yorker, the New York Post, as well as on CNN. It’s open to all international artists over the age of 18.

Linda Besse, 2016 Artist of the Month

The Artist’s Magazine Annual Art Competition

Deadline: April 2016
Fee: free
Prizes: $24 000-$100 each

The Artist’s Magazine Annual Art Competition awards are open to artists anywhere in the world working in traditional media. Only two-dimensional, original artwork, conceived and created by the entrant, will be considered, meaning mixed media cannot exceed an inch in depth. 

Should you enter?

Yes. The Artist’s Magazine Annual Art Competition is one of the most generous and comprehensive awards out there. Their ultimate goal is to honor your most outstanding work. If you think your art is deserving of being celebrated in the pages of The Artist’s Magazine, and worthy of thousands of dollars in cash prizes, this competition is for you!

Kate Gilmore, 2015 Winner


Deadlines: March-June 2016
Fee: $50 for individuals, $100 for groups
Prizes: $20 000 - $200 000

Despite offering huge sums of money to artists working at all levels, ArtPrize endures more criticism than any other competition in the art-world. Some critics have claimed the festival fails to produce outstanding work, and brings cultural prestige to undeserving Grand Rapids. On the other hand, supporters have credited ArtPrize as being a cultural phenomenon that removes some of the longstanding elitism from the world of fine art

Should you enter?

Yes! If you only enter one award this year, it should probably be ArtPrize. With over $500,000 in prizes, the award show giant offers enough prizes to give dozens of entrants the chance to walk away with something huge.

Vanessa Stanley, 2015 Winner

Contemporary Art Awards

Deadline: June 2016
Fee: $40 AUD
Prize: $3000, a 6 month-mentoring program, and a 500-word review of their work or practice

Contemporary Art Awards is an annual online art award, based in the district of Brisbane. The aim of this award is to support emerging artists in their early careers. The award does not restrict entries by category and welcomes all mediums including painting, works on paper, new media, photography, ceramics, sculpture, illustration, installation, and many more.

Should you enter?

If you’re an Australia-based artist, this should be on your list.

Sergei Orgunov, 2015 Winner

7th Annual Nature & Wildlife Exhibition

Deadline: June 2016
Fee: $45 for up to 3 works
Prize: $5000 Total, $2000 First Place + 40% commission

The Annual Nature & Wildlife Exhibition is part of the St. Augustine Art Association, a non-profit member art organization in the heart of the Historic District in St. Augustine, Florida. The Art Association is the epicenter of the local art community, and proceeds from this exhibition are reinvested into the community through varied art programs, activities, and outreach. The awards celebrate the best in fine art focusing on nature and wildlife.

Should you enter?

You should definitely this award if your work has a natural or wildlife spin to it. All mediums are welcome, but must be original 2-D or 3-D artwork only and created in past 3 years. Work can have no references to hunting or taxidermy, and human elements should not be present.

Amar Kanwar, 2014 Winner

The Leonore Annenberg Prize for Art and Social Change

Deadline: October 2016
Fee: Free
Prize: $25 000

The Leonore Annenberg Prize for Art and Social Change is a newer addition to the art prize circuit. The award focuses on historically relevant art as it relates to today’s public discourse, but its ultimate aim is to recognize socially engaged art and activists.

Should you enter?

If your art fits the Leonore Annenberg Prize’s socially engaged message, you absolutely should. Not only could you walk away with the prestige of winning, but $25 000 richer.

John MacAuley, Sunny Art Centre artist

The Sunny Art Prize

Deadline: June 2017
Fee: Starts at £25 for one artwork, up to £45 for four artworks
Prize: £1000 - £3000, plus a month-long art residency in a city in China, plus a solo exhibition in London for the first place winner

Should you enter?

If you’re interested in the chance to spend a month working on your art in either Guangzhou or Beijing, definitely enter. This prize is open to artists from anywhere in the word, working in any medium.

Alexander Dashevskiy, 2015 Painting winner

Arte Laguna Prize

Deadline: November 16, 2016 Fee: Starting at €55 per artwork Prize: A large range of prizes, including: artist residencies located in Belgium, Taiwan, Spain, Italy, and more; the opportunity to collaborate with a business on an artistic project; €7000 institutional prizes in each category; opportunities to exhibit in a variety of festivals.

Should you enter?

With eight categories of Painting, Sculpture and Installation, Photographic Art, Video Art, Performance, Virtual Art, Digital Graphics, and Land Art, it’s safe to say that the Arte Laguna Prize is open to most artists. People from anywhere in the world can apply, and you can also enter in more than one category if you choose.

Want more?
Discover 2016’s best photography contests & prizes here.
Discover 2016’s best design contests & prizes here.
Discover 2016’s best illustration contests & prizes here.

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