30/10/2020 - 21:00

Cowie wins $50,000 art prize

30/10/2020 - 21:00


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Victorian artist Serena Cowie is the 2020 winner of Western Australia’s richest art award, The Lester Prize for Portraiture.

Cowie wins $50,000 art prize
Western Australian finalists Joshua Cocking (back left), Daevid Anderson, Craig Soulsby (front left) and Jill Ansell attended the ceremony on Friday night.

Victorian artist Serena Cowie is the 2020 winner of Western Australia’s richest art award, The Lester Prize for Portraiture.

Ms Cowie won the $50,000 prize for her portrait of her friends Maria Arvanitis and Alexandra Perrott, titled The Conversation, at a ceremony on Friday night.

A record number of artists entered the competition, with 750 submissions. 

The prize was judged by Art Gallery of WA guest artistic director Ian Strange, art historian and professor Clarissa Ball and John Curtin Gallery director Chris Malcolm.

Mr Malcolm said the judges were unanimous in their decision.

“It’s quite rare that you are unanimous in a decision but in this instance, all three of us chose exactly the same work,” Mr Malcolm told Business News.

“I’ve judged dozens of prizes over the last thirty years and that’s only happened once before.”

Ms Cowie said as an emerging artist, she faced a lot of doubt and rejection, so the award was a great piece of encouragement for her career as an artist.

“To be celebrated with such a prestigious prize is unbelievable,” Ms Cowie said.

“This prize money presents opportunities that I could have only ever dreamed of.

“It will give me the freedom to just paint and hone my practice.

“It gives me the support and stability to produce an exhibition and find a studio other than my parents’ living room.”

The $50,000 prize was donated by founding partner Lester Group. 

Serena Cowie won the prize for her painting of her friends titled The Conversation. 

Other award winners include Sebastian Galloway who won the Tony Fini Foundation Artist Prize for their portrait of Pirrin Francis, Warm air, cool light.

Stacey Evangelou from NSW won the Minderoo Foundation Spirit Awardwith her portrait of Joe Williams titled Warrior by spirit.

The Ashurst Emerging Artist award was given to Kierah Falker Babbel for her painting of Robyn Babbel and Karl Babbel named Race car ya ya.

Two highly commended prizes were awarded to Western Australians Daevid Anderson for his portrait of Andrew Nicholls titled The dying slave - study; and Joshua Cocking with his portrait of Franque Batty named Making plants - a portrait of Franque.

Speaking to Business News before the award was announced, Mr Cocking said he entered the prize this year because it was a good opportunity to interact with other artists.

“It’s a social opportunity, it’s a professional opportunity and it’s a chance to show your work to the general public and industry members,” Mr Cocking told Business News.

In his portrait, Mr Cocking said he used a colonial painting as a backdrop to a contemporary landscape to symbolise that we are performing on the stage of country’s history.

The People’s Choice award will be announced on December 2.

The finalist’s artworks will be displayed in AGWA’s Centenary Galleries from October 31 to November 29.

The Lester Prize was formally known as The Black Swan Prize for Portraiture and was renamed in 2019 in honour of the award's leading patron Richard Lester. 


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