In 2006 Basil Sellers AM, an art collector and sport lover, realised that his two passions weren’t connecting. There were no art works in his collection featuring sport and he’d come across few such works in galleries and museums.
Basil contacted me at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, which had just staged ‘Game on!’, an exhibition on the theme of art and sport within the Melbourne Commonwealth Games arts festival. He proposed galvanising interest in the meeting of art and sport by offering a major art prize encouraging artists and audience to embrace the concept. Together, we developed a plan for a prize and exhibition that would reveal the long history and contemporary relevance of sport in Australian art.
Commencing in 2008, the Potter has staged the biannual Basil Sellers Art Prize, offering a $100,000 award to a winning work selected by a panel of art and sport experts. Along the way, the project has expanded to include a $50,000 creative fellowship at the National Sports Museum, awarded to one of the finalists in the art prize. Hundreds of entries, from all states and territories of Australia, have revealed contemporary artists’ fascination with sport and its central role in Australian history and consciousness.
Significantly, Basil Sellers’s support has redefined the structure of art prizes, which are a prominent feature of the Australian art scene. The Basil Sellers Art Prize offers substantial support to the exhibiting finalists; including participation fees, freight, insurance, travel and accommodation costs. Around two-thirds of the project budget is directed to the presentation and promotion of the artists’ work. As well, the prize attracts large numbers of ‘first-time’ visitors to a contemporary art exhibition on the basis of its popular theme. Many of the finalists’ works have been acquired for public art collections.
The fourth Basil Sellers Art Prize will be staged at the Potter 22 July–26 October 2014.
Information on previous exhibitions and awards, along with this year’s finalists can be found at the Basil Sellers Art Prize website.