Visual art competitions are not a common phenomenon in most African countries,
more so in those which have no structures in place to develop the creative industries.
But since it was unveiled in 2007, the annual Barclays L'Atelier Art Competition is
now been hailed as one of Africa’s most prestigious art contests.
With its growing relevance built on a platform created over last couple of years recent
past, the event’s popularity continues to spread across the continent and in countries,
where Barclays Africa has a presence.
The competition contest’s basic objective is to offer young visual artists aged between
21 to 35 opportunities to develop their talents beyond their own countries, with the
winners bagging residency stints abroad.
Eligibility was initially, limited to artists who are residents on permanent basis in
South Africa, Zambia, Botswana, Ghana and Kenya.
But over recent years, invitations to participate have been extended to artists in Egypt,
Seychelles, Tanzania, Uganda, Mauritius and Mozambique among other countries.
The painters or sculptors shortlisted as finalists benefit from competition’s guaranteed
exposure – with their artworks, sculptures or video art entries showcased in an annual
More significantly, the selected entries are published in a catalogue which is sought
after by international art collectors and gallery curators from across the globe.
This year’s event, whose deadline to submit entries closed on April 28 – has an array
of accolades lined up for grabs in five different categories.
They include the first prize, three merit awards besides also the Gerard Sekoto award
for the most promising artist.
In addition, top 10 finalists are expected to take part in a two-day art professionalism
course whose primary focus aims to equip them with career management tips.
Under this arrangement, each of the finalists is paired off with a seasoned artist, who
is then expected to provide mentorship, handy, formative skills and work together for
The adjudication criteria is based on an artist’s conceptual/ thematic engagement,
freshness of his/her vision in the context of African contemporary art, technical
execution besides also the artwork’s aesthetic appeal.
But more significantly, the competition grants a cross section of artists, those with
formal training as well as self-taught artists, with an equal opportunity to participate
in the contest.
The overall winner’s prize is inclusive of return flight ticket to Paris, France and South
African Rand 300,000, which must be used for three to six months study residency at
the Cité Internationale des Arts studio apartments.
Three other residencies are also lined up at the Bag Factory Artists Studio – South
Africa [3 months], the Sylt Foundation Island of Sylt – Germany [2-months] and the
Ampersand Foundation – New York [1-month].
The third award winner is entitled to the honour to become a Ampersand Foundation
Fellow besides been a recipient of an AAM (American Association of Museums) card,
which entails free access to numerous New York City museums.
All entrants are eligible for this prize with dates for the residencies beginning January
to August 2018. These prizes must also be taken up the year after it is presented.
Besides having access to return flight tickets to the respective cities, the artists in
residence are also entitled to monthly stipends for the entire duration.
The winners are slated to be announced on 13th September 2017.