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Rivalry to revelry: 2017 art competitions in South Africa

Posted on February 9, 2017.

The "juried process" of art competitions is a necessary career step for emerging artists who want to be considered as a serious artists. Every year, art competitions around South Africa offer artists the opportunity to build and develop their artistic resume as well as win handy cash and other prizes. takes a look at what art competition opportunities are available in 2017.

Phatshoane Henney New Breed Art Competition

The New Breed Art Competition has been established in 2016 by Bloemfontein law firm, Phatshoane Henney Attorneys as a unique visual arts competition for Free State artists.

The firm's passion for creativity and challenging the traditional has enabled differentiation from other law firms and allowed the firm to be recognised as a new breed of law firm. This passion has fuelled the search for other territories where creativity can be recognised and rewarded.

Art provides a universal medium which can push one's boundaries and perceptions and can challenge both artist and audience to evolve. The New Breed Art Competition therefore provides opportunity to discover and celebrate a new breed of artist and remind us of the power of creativity.

For more information, visit

South African Living Portrait Master

South African Portrait Society hosts an annual Art Competition where the top portrait artists in South Africa gets a chance to compete on National Level.

This is open to any artist currently living and working in South Africa, independent of Nationality. Artists must be 18 years and older, students are welcome to apply.

Closing date for entries is 31 March 2017. No late entries will be allowed.

For more information, visit

Sasol New Signatures Art Competition

Each year, the Sasol New Signatures art competition raises the bar in unearthing new artistic talent in South Africa. Artists submit artworks that experiment with new media and multiple modes of expression and convey messages showing true innovation.

Artists who believe they have what it takes to make an impact in the industry are encouraged to submit one or two artworks at one of several collection points around the country. The competition is open to artists who are 18 and older and have not held a solo exhibition (a body of at least 20 works exhibited in a commercial gallery) except for academic purposes.

Valuable national educational information sessions will equip artists with knowledge around the judging process, insights into the competition, advice on conceptualization, display and presentation of work.

For more information, visit or contact the Association of Arts Pretoria on 012 346 3100 or email

SA Taxi Foundation Art Award

The SA Taxi Foundation Art Award is gearing up for the third year of its watershed challenge to practitioners of the visual arts. Entries for this intriguing Award is now open and creatives, artists, and designers are invited to begin work on their submissions.

The main Award is worth an impressive R700 000 and includes a cash amount of R50 000, while the top 5 finalists will each receive an Award to the value of R660 000 including a R10 000 cash prize. The prizes include production of the artists' designs as decals, each to be carried by 10 taxis on national routes for a period of 6 months - as well as an extensive publicity campaign aimed at creating national awareness of their work to kick-start their professional careers.

The SA Taxi Foundation Art Award therefore adds significant momentum for emerging artists trying to build a sustainable career. Won by Tshepo Mosopa in 2015 and Audrey Anderson in 2016, the Award has seen the work of altogether 12 finalists' work grace 120 taxis that transport hundreds of thousands of South Africans to and from work daily. As a result, the work has been viewed by millions of South Africans, whether as taxi commuters or other road users, causing a buzz wherever it is spotted.

Closing date for entries is 13 February 2017

For more information or to enter, visit

Ernest Cole Award

The Ernest Cole Photographic Award was initiated under the auspices of the University of Cape Town, and offers a unique opportunity for photographers to complete an existing project. The award, named after documentary photographer Ernest Cole, has been made possible by the generous support of the Peter Brown, Gavin Relly Educational and Kirsh Family Trusts, ORMS, and the John Liebenberg Hip Op Fund.

The winning photographer will receive R150 000 with which to complete the project, have an exhibition and publish a book thereof. The Ernest Cole Photographic Award has been established to stimulate creative work in photography in South Africa.

The competition is open to anyone whose work focuses on South African society, with preference being given to people living within the country. The purpose of the award is to support the realisation of a significant body of work that the photographer has been engaged with.

Closing date for entries is 17 June 2017

Visit for submission guidelines and information.

Sanlam Portrait Award

Sanlam Private Investments, in collaboration with Rust-en-Vrede Art Gallery, Durbanville, presents the Sanlam Portrait Award. Iniatiated in 2013, the national award celebrates and showcases the best original portrait artwork in South Africa.

This annual competition gives top local artists the opportunity to get invaluable exposure – the top 40 entries are displayed at the Rust-en-Vrede Gallery in Cape Town and thereafter will travel to various museums and galleries throughout South Africa. The winner walks away with R100 000 and the opportunity of a small solo exhibition at the Rust-en-Vrede Gallery in 2019.

Closing date for entries is 13 July 2017.

For more information, visit

Barclays L'Atelier Art Competition

The L'Atelier completion has been instrumental in launching many significant careers in the visual arts and 2017 will once again feature a string of highly coveted art residency prizes for the top two winners and top three merit award recipients, in addition to a significantly increased cash prize of R300 000.

L'Atelier 2017 - hosted in conjunction with the South African National Association for the Visual Arts (SANAVA) - enters its 32nd year and is aimed at young, up and coming contemporary visual artists aged 21 to 35. The competition aims to nurture young talent, and serves as a platform for emerging artists to make their mark in the African art arena.

The competition is open to artists in the 10 African countries where Barclays Africa has a footprint, namely, South Africa, Botswana, Ghana, Zambia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Mauritius, Seychelles and, for the first time in 2017, Mozambique.

Registration will once again be online (artists can submit up to a maximum of three artworks), with works being physically delivered to collection points for initial adjudication. Physical works will not be accepted at the collection points if artists have not completed their online registration.

Closing date for entries is between 24 and 28 April 2017 submitted to the nearest collection point.

For more information, visit

Reinhold Cassirer Award

The Reinhold Cassirer award, funded by Nadine Gordimer and Strauss & Co, offers an emerging South African artist, in the field of drawing or painting, under the age of 35 the opportunity to spend a period of approximately 10 weeks at the Bag Factory's studios in Johannesburg. The award takes place annually and usually is awarded during March / April.

The award provides the recipient with the opportunity to interact with the established artists resident at the Bag Factory and consequentially offers the opportunity for an expanded professional network and a greater understanding of art in Johannesburg and in South Africa. The winner receives possible studio space at the Bag Factory, contributions to travel and living expenses, artist and exhibition marketing and networking

For more information, visit

Thami Mnyele Fine Arts Award

One of South Africa's oldest national fine art awards, The Thami Mnyele Fine Arts Award is presented in August/September to correspond with the month in which Thami Mnyele's remains were re-buried in Tembisa, South Africa.

The competition is open to artists of all ages and categories include multimedia and new media, painting, art on paper and sculpture. Previous winners include 2012 winner Lwandiso Njara and 2011 winner Jenna Burchell.

Contact Tshidiso Makhetha on 011 999 4474/4286 or for more information.

Tollman Bouchard Finlayson Tondo Competition

Since its first year in 2013, the Tollman Bouchard Finlayson Tondo Competition has become one of the highlights of Hermanus FynArts festival.

Entries must be submitted in a tondo (round) format with a maximum 60cms diameter, including mount or frame. A variety of media will be accepted including paper, canvas, board, perspex, fabric, embroidery, collage, mixed media, photography, digitally/mechanically produced and photo-based. Works are exhibited on the barrel heads in the cellar of the Bouchard Finlayson wine estate in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley.

Prizes include a R20 000 winner prize, a second prize of R10 000 and 2 merit prizes of R5 000 each.

Closing date for entries is 19 May 2017.

For more information on how to enter the Tollman Bouchard Finlayson Tondo Competition, the prizes, the judges and more, visit the Hermanus Fynarts website.

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