In a little over a year, and against the challenges of starting something that stretches across borders in the time of COVID, Canberra gallery owner Robert Stephens has founded the National Capital Art Prize and already made it a significant part of the Australian art scene.
Finalists for the 2022 National Capital Art Prize have been announced, with judges "blown away by the quality and standard of this year's entries".
This year, there is a shortlist of 129 finalists from across Australia, 10 from the ACT, each artist allowed to create work on any subject in any medium.
Finalists will have their art displayed in an exhibition at the Fitters' Workshop in Canberra for a month from mid-September.
The Australia-wide competition, now in its second year, has more than $45,000 in prize money up for grabs across three categories. The Open Prize, First Nations Prize and Sustainability prize winners will each receive $15,000.
The People's Choice Award voting has also started, with the public deciding on who wins the $2500 prize.
Voting for the People's Choice Award has opened at https://nationalcapitalartprize.com.au/2022peopleschoiceaward/
Votes can be cast until Sunday, September 11.
A panel of eminent Australians will decide the three category winners in September ahead of the four-week exhibition.
"We are thrilled to see all the unique, thought-provoking and inspiring artwork across a wide range of styles and mediums," Mr Stephens said.
"Several of Australia's best-known artists, including previous Archibald finalists, have submitted works and some really brilliant pieces have been received from emerging new talent.
"The standard and variety of artworks is amazing. The judging panel really had their work cut out selecting the finalists. It will be exciting to see them in situ at the public exhibition in Canberra through September and October.
"I would particularly like to thank our platinum partner, Mineral Councils of Australia and our gold partner, Canberra Airport Group, whose support enables this competition."
The finalists' works from the ACT range from a painting inspired by the artist riding a bike around Uluru to a still life created after the artist was visiting a farm and "captivated by the delicate arrangement of persimmons and poppies".
In another painting, an old dog toy becomes high art and is rendered with a message about overconsumption. There is also a sculpture made from salvaged Casuarina timber and ceramics. Another painter recognises the artist's "gun shearer" grandfather.
Mr Stephens said he already felt closer to his goal of making Canberra the art capital, as well as the political capital, of Australia.
"I hope so, because we've got a lot of recognition for it this year and the mere fact we've got sponsors coming on board and the way the ACT government has supported us and made the exhibition part of Floriade, that all adds to the credibility of the prize," he said.
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