Sidney Myer Fund Australian Ceramic Award

The Sidney Myer Fund Australian Ceramic Award (SMFACA) celebrates and promotes contemporary Australian artists working in the ceramic medium. With $50,000 in prize money, the SMFACA cements its place as the premier Australian acquisitive ceramic award. 

The Sidney Myer Fund

The Sidney Myer Fund was established by the will of Sidney Myer when he died in 1934. Having arrived penniless in Melbourne in 1899 at the age of 21, he wanted to give back to the Australian community in which he himself had prospered.  The Sidney Myer Fund Trustees are proud to be associated with an exhibition that understands, explores and challenges the possibilities of ceramics and art making in our contemporary world. 

As a direct outcome of the relationship between the Sidney Myer Fund and Shepparton Art Museum over 26 years, over 175 works have been acquired, creating a diverse and dynamic collection of works by both Australian and international artists.  

History of the Award

The SMFACA is one of the most prestigious awards in the visual arts sector in Australia, with a uniquely ceramic focus.  It has evolved over its many year history.  It began in 1991 as the Sidney Myer Fund Australia Day Ceramic Award, and evolved into the Sidney Myer Fund International Ceramic Art Award in 1997, with the aim of providing an unprecedented opportunity for a major international ceramic award and exhibition in Australia. 

In 2009, SAM reviewed the Award, and it returned to a format that celebrates and promotes contemporary Australian artists working in the ceramic medium.  With ceramics increasingly adopted by a number of emerging and established contemporary artists, as recent exhibitions nationally and internationally have highlighted, the possibilities for the medium has significantly expanded. 

Past Winners 

  • 2019
    • Lynda Draper, Somnambulism
  • 2017
    • Jenny Orchard, The Imagined Possibility of Unity
  • 2015
    • Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran, Archipelago
  • 2012
    • Australian Category: Kirsten Coelho 
    • Emerging Australian Category: Alexandra Standen 
    • International Category: Michal Fargo (Israel)
  • 2010
    • Australian Category: Stephen Benwell 
    • Emerging Australian Category: Paul Wood 
    • International Category: Anne Wenzel
  • 2008
    • Premier Award: Annete Defoort (Belgium), Dakis 
    • Friends of Shepparton Art Gallery Society Award of Merit Prize: Angela Valamanesh (Australia),  Animal, Vegetable, Mineral. 
    • La Trobe University Award of Merit: Ian Paul Rylatt (United Kingdom), for Clayrinet. 
    • Poyntzpass Pioneer Award of Merit: Merran Esson (Australia), Towong Tank.
  • 2006
    • Premier Award: Ana Rosenzweig (Spain), Portrait 
    • Friends of Shepparton Art Gallery Society Award of Merit Prize: Vida Sobott (Australia), The bride stripped bare… and fled 
    • La Trobe University Award of Merit: Tina Vlassopulos (United Kingdom), Spiral 
    • 2006 Poyntzpass Pioneer Award of Merit: Hideaki Suzuki (Japan), Black Dimension. 

Award Format

In 2019 judges selected five shortlisted artists from the EOI applications received.  Judges were looking for the ambition and scope of the proposed projects, the way in which the project engages with themes and ideas central to our contemporary world; and a sustained contemporary engagement with the ceramics medium, extending our understanding of the possibilities and sheer technical ability of the artists.  

Each of the shortlisted artists were supported to develop new work, providing better career development opportunities for Australian artists, more strategic collecting for the Art Museum, and a greater depth to the exhibition for visitors and associated publishing. Artists have the opportunity to work with the support of curatorial staff throughout the planning of their exhibitions, and other SAM staff during the course of the exhibition. 

The five shortlisted artists of the Award each received a $1,500 contribution towards the production of a body of work for exhibition. Costs associated with the exhibition were be borne by the Art Museum including: freight; and the production of a fully illustrated catalogue.

There was approximately five months between the announcement of shortlisted artists and the delivery of works to SAM. One of the five shortlisted artists (Lynda Draper) was awarded a $50,000 acquisitive cash prize, and her work was acquired into the SAM collection.