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The gold standard for regional art

The City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder, in the Goldfields region of Western Australia, is home to one of the most prestigious regional art competitions in the country.
The gold standard for regional art

The City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder Art Prize exhibition in 2016. Photograph credit Caitlin Chessell.

The City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder Art Prize occupies a special place among Australian regional art awards. With a strong local character, an Australia-wide entry pool, and international attention, the competition exists at the intersection of regional and national art communities. It’s a rare balance, and one that the City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder takes pride in having maintained for over seventy years.

Caitlin Chessell, Events and Projects Coordinator for the City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder, believes that the ‘high calibre and diversity of works’ is what sets the City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder Art Prize apart from other regional art prizes. ‘The competition is a well-appreciated showcase of recreational, emerging, and mid-career artists, with a fair number of established artists including Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists from the Goldfields and beyond,’ says Ms Chessell.

‘There’s an incredible local buy-in – from an average of 250 entries, about 150 are from local artists.’ According to Ms Chessell, ‘the event particularly showcases the cultural vibrancy and heritage of Kalgoorlie-Boulder and the Goldfields region of Australia… it supports and develops the artistic and curatorial vitality of Kalgoorlie-Boulder.’

Although the prize is a point of local pride, Ms Chessell is also keen to emphasise the national standing of the competition. ‘The cash prizes, which come from a prize pool of over $35,000, are on par with city council art prizes throughout Australia,’ she says. ‘We have approximately 1,800 visitors every year… people come from across the globe to visit the exhibition… there’s a distinct Goldfields flavour that’s highly interesting to international visitors.’

Past winners of the awards have captured the character of the Western Australian Goldfields region as well as universal themes.

The winner of last year’s Best Overall Award was the painting When I was two they asked me where my dad was, by Kalgoorlie-born artist Tanya Jaceglav. ‘Just before I was two, my mum got a knock on the door saying my dad had been killed in mining accident,’ said Jaceglav, explaining the subject of the painting, which depicts the funeral procession. Like the prize itself, the painting straddles the line between the local and the universal. On the one hand, its depiction of an event that was part of Goldfields had, in Ms Chessell’s words, an undeniable ‘Kalgoorlie influence’; on the other hand, judges praised Jaceglav for her depiction of an experience that was central to the universal human condition.


When I was two they asked me where my dad was, Oil on board by Tanya Jaceglav

The 2015 winner, The Poppy Seller by photographer Coral Carter also embodied the interplay of local, national and global that lies at the heart of the City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder Art Prize. The Kalgoorlie-born Carter’s photograph depicted Clifford Angell, who was selling poppies in New Zealand’s Dunedin Airport in the leadup to the ANZAC centenary. ‘It seemed to me that everyone in the country [New Zealand] was wearing a poppy, showing respect… I just didn’t imagine the same sort of thing happening in Australia. ANZAC is however a celebration both our countries shared and I felt at home,’ said Carter.


The Poppy Seller. Photograph by Coral Carter. 

Entering the prize

City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder Art Prize is open to both two-dimensional and three-dimensional submissions from artists across Australia, with awards in the following categories:

  • Best Overall Award
  • Best Painting in Show
  • Best Print in Show
  • Best 3D in Show
  • Best Artwork by a Goldfields Artist
  • First Nations Art Award
  • Emerging Young Artist Awards
  • People’s Choice Award
  • 10 Highly Commended Awards

All of the artwork submitted to the competition is displayed at the exhibition - space allowing, and at the curator’s discretion. The exhibition is held in the Kalgoorlie Town Hall, a grand historical building which Ms Chessell states to be an attraction in itself. Judges change from year to year, and are selected from respected arts professionals in the Western Australian arts community.

The judges for 2016 included Paula Silbert, renowned arts consultant and presenter of the radio segment Smart Arts, and Dr Duncan McKay, Public Arts Coordinator for the City of Perth. Judges in previous years include Dr Janice Lally, curator of public arts programs at the University of Western Australia museums, and Tracy Luke, manager of Tjukurba Arts Centre in Wiluna. A curator is also chosen every year for the exhibition from a pool of local applicants.

The City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder Art Prize opens for entries to Australian artists from 1 July to 7 August 2017. There is an entry fee of $25 per work. The Exhibition is open from 10 to 25 September 2017, with most works available to purchase. For more information, artists can sign up to the Art Prize e-newsletter at

Raphael Morris

Monday 30 January, 2017

About the author

Raphael Morris is a Melbourne writer.