Regional gallery to host national youth portraiture prize

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The Bega Valley Regional Gallery will host a new national portrait prize – this time for young and aspiring artists.

The prize will be called the Shirl in a nod to the memory of the late Shirley Hannan, an acclaimed portrait painter and art patron whose family funds the biennial Shirley Hannan National Portrait Award with a $50,000 prize purse.

In a further act of generosity, the Hannan family has donated the Shirley Hannan Collection, selected works which are currently on exhibition at the gallery as part of the Gifted exhibition, to the Bega Valley Regional Gallery on behalf of the Bega Valley Shire community. 

Gallery curator Iain Dawson said the $10,000 Shirl prize for the most outstanding portrait produced by a young person is generously sponsored by Mrs Hannan’s son Peter Hannan, and another benefactor still to be named.

“The National Youth Portrait Prize, to be awarded for the first time next year, addresses young and aspiring artists,” he said.

“While the Gallery’s Grad Show acknowledges the importance of school-based artists through its annual Higher School Certificate art exhibition - there is really no temporary exhibition designed specifically to acknowledge the importance of young emerging artists.

“The Shirl will bridge that gap; the exhibition and its online exhibition will consider portraiture and the creative endeavours of 18- to 25-year-old Australians.

“In keeping with the interests and innovation of this age group, Shirl participants will be invited to submit portraits using traditional and new media, which includes pastels, painting, print and traditional or digital still photography as well as screen-based digital art such as short animation, films or interactive media. 

“The annual prize is designed to encourage new and emerging artists to consider and innovate the genre of portraiture,” Mr Dawson said.

He said that while the Shirl would be a national prize, the gallery would be running youth programs leading up to the competition, starting next April, such as digital workshops with artists from Melbourne or Sydney and graffiti artists from Canberra.

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