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Supporting artists for more than a decade, entries now open for the 2020 John Fries Award

Entries open this month for one of Australia’s most highly anticipated awards for early career artists, the $10,000 John Fries Award.

Entries for the 2020 award open on Monday 26 August 2019.

The John Fries Award is a platform for some of the most engaging and experimental works of contemporary art in Australia and New Zealand. In its eleventh year, the award will be overseen by a distinguished line-up of judges, including artist and Senior Lecturer at the UTS School of Design, Dr Cherine Fahd; Associate Lecturer of Indigenous Art at the University of Sydney, Stephen Gilchrist; the daughter of the award’s namesake, artist Kath Fries; as well as more to be announced soon.

Following the success of the 2019 John Fries Award exhibition, Miriam Kelly will continue as Guest Curator for 2020. Ms Kelly is currently a curator with the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne.

She says, “I am honoured and thrilled to return as the curator of the John Fries Award. It was a great privilege and pleasure to work with the 2019 finalists in realising new commissions, and I look forward to this rewarding process again in 2020.

“I have been following the award since its inception and, like many, now annually look to it for a snapshot of some of the strongest early career exponents of contemporary practice in Australia and New Zealand. I can’t wait to see the breadth of entries for 2020.

“The John Fries Award’s commitment to supporting early career professional practices, by providing financial and curatorial support for artists to develop and present work for the finalist exhibition, is rare and an important point of distinction. It is a pleasure to be able to show support for new developments and creative visions at such a formative time in an artist’s career,” Ms Kelly says.

Copyright Agency CEO Adam Suckling says, “The Copyright Agency is proud to support the John Fries Award, as it enters its final year. Since the prize was launched in 2010, it has grown to become a significant event in Sydney’s cultural and contemporary art calendar. We wish to thank the Fries family for offering our local early career artists the invaluable opportunity to showcase their work and advance their careers. The Copyright Agency will continue to support visual artists with vital grants and fellowships through its Cultural Fund.”

Sydney artist Justine Youssef was awarded the prize in 2019 for her performative, video and installation work Under the table I learnt how to feed you.

In the work, Ms Youssef documented the women in her family as they “arrogate space” in the courtyard of a Lebanese bakery in South-West Sydney, a site of social and cultural significance for the Arabic population in the area.

“The work I created for the finalist exhibition was my most experimental and vulnerable to date. It’s so affirming to be supported to work in this way,” says Ms Youssef.

She is encouraging other artists to get involved.

“If you feel drawn to take part please know that you absolutely deserve to! I moved through so many layers of imposter syndrome to build up the courage to even apply for the award. It has helped me grow in so many ways,” Ms Youssef adds.

All finalists’ entries will feature in a month-long exhibition in August/September 2020 at UNSW Galleries at UNSW Art & Design – the Award’s presenting partner for the seventh year running.

The John Fries Award is generously donated by the Fries family in memory of former Viscopy director and honorary treasurer John Fries, who made a remarkable contribution to the life and success of the organisation. Viscopy merged with the Copyright Agency on 30 November 2017.

2020 will be the final year of the John Fries Award. The Copyright Agency will continue to support visual artists with vital grants and fellowships through its Cultural Fund. Kath Fries, daughter of the late John Fries, for whom the award is named, says, “It’s been a pleasure working so closely with Viscopy and Copyright Agency on the John Fries Award over the past ten years, and to hear from finalists, winners and the wider arts community about how valuable the award has been to them. 2020 is significantly the final year of the John Fries Award and it will be a celebratory conclusion.”

The call for entries opens Monday 26 August 2019 and closes 5pm AEDT Monday 30 September 2019 at Finalists will be announced early to mid-December this year. Read more at

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Jane Morey
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About the Copyright Agency

The not-for-profit Copyright Agency connects users and creators of content, providing licences for the use of copyright material such as text, images, art and survey plans. We manage the educational and government licences for the use of text and images, as well as the resale royalty scheme for artists (by Government appointment). Our members include writers, artists, surveyors and publishers. Membership is free.