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In December 2023, IMMA is thrilled to host the most important platform for visual art graduates in Ireland, the RDS Visual Art Awards. The programme consists of a curated exhibition opportunity and a prize fund of €30,000.

The RDS Visual Art Awards offers the most comprehensive assessments of graduate work in Ireland undertaken on a thirty-two-county basis. The competitive process is transparent, highly regarded and harnesses the expertise of some of the best visual arts professionals working in Ireland. Inclusion in the exhibition has a proven positive impact on the accelerated career progression of young artists.

The RDS Visual Art Awards is a flagship RDS Foundation project and is part of the wider RDS Arts Programme which provides a platform to support the transition from student to emerging artist encouraging the pursuit of a career in visual art, craft and classical music.

Collaborators, Judging panel, Process

The competitive process seeks to identify and select the very best graduating artists from the BA & MA graduate shows on the island of Ireland, for inclusion in a high-profile curated exhibition and to award prizes in recognition of excellence and innovation using agreed criteria. The RDS Visual Art Awards is also open to Irish artists graduating from overseas art colleges and to those whose degree shows fall outside the tradition summer period. The competition is a three stage process starting with the long listing which is done via visits to the degree shows by a team of professional curators who are engaged by the RDS to travel around the country and long list those who they feel are the strongest artists in each college’s graduate show, in co-operation with co-ordinators in each of the thirteen colleges. Only long listed artists can then contact RDS for the link to the application form.

Shortlisting is subsequently done by the judging panel of five, which is currently chaired by Mary McCarthy, Director of the Crawford Art Gallery in Cork. They review the applications of all long listed artists and shortlist them down to a smaller number which they review in more detail when they come together as a group to select the exhibitors who will be included in the show. Three arts institutions nominate judges to the panel: the RHA, National Gallery of Ireland and IMMA. The RDS selects the chair and the fifth member of the panel is the exhibition curator who changes every year and is usually a senior Irish artist, selected by RDS. The 2023 curator is Elaine Hoey, a former RDS Visual Art Awards exhibitor (2016 & 2017) and multiple prize-winner. The judging panel selects the exhibitors from those on the shortlist for inclusion in the show, and the exhibition curator works with the exhibiting artists to provide an overall perspective and coherence to the exhibition. Winners are selected by the judging panel once the show has been installed.

2023 RDS Visual Art Awards Judging Panel

Elaine Hoey – Professional Artist & Exhibition Curator

Mary McCarthy – Director, Crawford Gallery, (Chair)

Christina Kennedy – IMMA Nominated Judge

Eithne Jordan – RHA Nominated Judge

Gary Coyle – National Gallery of Ireland Nominated Judge

About the Curator

Elaine Hoey is a New Media Artist with a specialty in virtual reality and interactive art. Elaine creates interactive based installations, appropriating contemporary digital art practices and aesthetics to explore the politics of digital humanity and our evolving relationship with the screen. Elaine is interested in creating new forms of art informed by questions arising from complex social, political and cultural processes.

Elaine’s work often addresses and critiques themes arising from identity, place and the bio-political body. Her virtual reality works commonly include immersing the viewer in performative and often uncomfortable roles within her digitally constructed worlds. She works through a wide variety of mediums such as, virtual reality, AI systems, video, gaming, installation and live performance, including remote cyber performance.

Elaine holds a BA and MFA in Fine Art Media from the National College of Art and Design. Upon graduating from both degrees, Elaine exhibited at the RDS Visual Art Awards in subsequent years, where she was won the RDS Taylor Art Award 2016, the R.C. Lewis-Crosby Award​ 2017 and the RDS Mason Hayes & Curran LLP Centre Culturel Irlandais Residency Award 2017. Elaine has exhibited widely in Ireland and internationally.

RDS Visual Arts Awards/ Prizes

The RDS Visual Art Awards was launched in 2016 and is a result of the restructuring of a previous RDS project supporting artists which through many iterations, dates to the nineteenth century. The RDS Taylor Art Award is a cash prize of €10,000 and is awarded as first prize in the RDS Visual Art Awards to the person the judges believe to be the most promising emerging visual artist in that year.

All visual art disciplines are considered for this award, which has been awarded since 1860. Some of Ireland’s most respected and successful artists have won the award over the years including, Walter Osbourne, William Orpen, Mainie Jellett, Norah McGuinness, Harry Clarke, Roderic O’Connor, Séan Keating, Louis le Brocquy, Dorothy Cross and James Hanley.

RDS Taylor Art Award (Awarded by RDS since 1860) €10,000
R.C. Lewis Crosby Award €5,000
RDS Members Arts Fund Award €5,000
RDS Mason Hayes & Curran Centre Culturel Residency Award €1,000 cash prize plus 3-month residency/studio space in CCI Paris valued at €5,000
RHA Graduate Studio Award €2,500 cash prize plus 12-month free studio at the RHA School valued at €5,000
Stipends for all exhibiting artists €500 per artist

Sponsors and Partner organisations include: the Taylor Art Trust, the family of R.C. Lewis-Crosby, Mason Hayes & Curran LLP, the RDS Members Arts Fund, RHA, IMMA and the Centre Culturel Irlandais in Paris.