The Muswellbrook Art Prize began in 1958 as the Festival of the Valley Art Prize with the winning painting Death of Voss by Tom Gleghorn becoming the inaugural work in what has grown to become an excellent collection of modern and contemporary Australian painting, works on paper and ceramics from the Post War period of the 20th Century and now the first two decades of the 21st Century. The Muswellbrook Shire Art Collection was created as a direct result of this ongoing acquisitive art competition.
The Muswellbrook Art Prize has gone through numerous changes over its history. The most significant being the addition of the acquisitive prize for Works on Paper in 1965, initially known as the Drawing Prize, and the acquisitive Ceramic Prize, firstly from 1971 to 1976 and then permanently from 1987. The Prize also featured an acquisitive Traditional Prize for representational works from 1961 to 1968. At various times the Prize has been combined with the Muswellbrook Local Art Prize (itself acquisitive from time to time) or the Muswellbrook Ceramic Prize has been held separately from the Painting and Drawing Prizes and there have also been a number of name changes over the years from the aforementioned Festival of the Valley Art Prize in 1958 to The Muswellbrook Art Prize and Purchase Exhibition and The Muswellbrook Pottery Prize in 1974. The acquisitive local section was once known as the Viola Bromley Acquisitive Prize. In 2002 the Muswellbrook Art Prize became biennial after having been an annual event from 1958 up until the refurbishment of the Muswellbrook Town Hall complex (which included the Muswellbrook Regional Gallery) to become the Muswellbrook Regional Arts Centre in 1999/2000. Throughout all this revision and improvement the National or open sections of the Muswellbrook Art Prize have remained acquisitive with the winning works entering the Muswellbrook Shire Art Collection.
The Muswellbrook Art Prize selects only the very best works to compete in the final adjudication and be displayed in the exhibition. Many of the winning artists have had long and successful careers and many are numbered among the most significant in Australia’s creative life. Previous winners include such key figures as Suzanne Archer, David Aspden, Sydney Ball, Marion Borgelt, Tony Coleing, Greg Daly, Guy Grey-Smith, Colin Lanceley, Richard Larter, Margo Lewers, Elwyn Lynn, Bea Maddock, Janet Mansfield, Noel McKenna, Kathrin McMiles, Angus Nivison, John Ogburn, Mike Parr, David Rankin, Pam Sinnott, David Strachan, Lillian Sutherland and Fred Williams. The Upper Hunter Region is also well represented with a number of local artists being successful in winning the Prize including Peter Atkins, Viola Bromley, James Clifford, Enid Cryer, Dale Frank, Peter Gill, Hanna Kay, Lyn Nash, Elizabeth Parkinson and Max Watters.
Throughout its history there has been an ongoing financial commitment by local businesses and industry which has enabled the Prize to be held, ensuring the development of the Muswellbrook Shire Art Collection for the education and enjoyment of local residents and tourists alike. Since 1958 the Muswellbrook Shire Council has always remained a sponsor of both the Prize monies and the administration of the Prize. Other major sponsors over the years have included Costain Coal Australia Ltd., Esso Standard Oil (Australia) Ltd., Hebden Mining Company, Hunter Valley Printing Company Pty. Ltd., Muswellbrook Coal Company, Peabody Resources Limited, Rural Bank of NSW, State Bank of NSW and Upper Hunter Timbers Pty. Ltd.
The Muswellbrook Shire Council gratefully acknowledges the generous support of the Bengalla Mining Company Pty Limited for their ongoing commitment to the Muswellbrook Art Prize over the past 20 plus years.
About the Muswellbrook Art Prize
The Muswellbrook Art Prize is an acquisitive art competition held biennially (during odd-numbered years). This competition is launched early in the year, with entry forms usually becoming available towards the end of the previous year.
The Muswellbrook Art Prize has three competition categories
Acquisitive prize $50,000; for a two dimensional painting of any subject in any medium; sponsored by Bengalla Mining Company Pty Limited and Muswellbrook Shire Council.
Works on Paper
Acquisitive prize $10,000: for a work on paper of any subject in any medium excluding photography; sponsored by Muswellbrook Shire Council.
Acquisitive prize $10,000: for a ceramic work of any subject; sponsored by Bengalla Mining Company Pty Limited.