Ashurst Emerging Artist Prize. A Rising Star Among The International Art Competitions.

We are thrilled to feature this interview with the organisers of the Ashurst Emerging Artist Prize.

Ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes of an international art prize? We spoke to Conrad Carvalho and Caitlin Smyth about this years event and the success of last years exciting overall winner Mirjam Siim.

Now open for entries for its 3rd year, the Ashurst Emerging Artist Prize has rapidly become a highly regarded prize which celebrates up and coming artist from around the globe. while still offering support to all entrants with free informative talks and networking events, as well as promotion on social media channels.

Artwork by Mirjam Siim, River of Life, Ashurst Emerging Artist winner 2016. Image courtesy of  Oaktree & Tiger

Artwork by Mirjam Siim, River of Life, Ashurst Emerging Artist winner 2016. Image courtesy of Oaktree & Tiger

Meet CC: Conrad Carvalho and CS: Caitlin Smyth

 SG: The Ashurst Emerging Artist Prize is now in its second edition. How did it all start? 

CC: The prize is actually in its third edition. It started with international law firm Ashurst, who set up their Emerging Artist Initiative back in 2014 with the aim of supporting emerging artists through their Emerging Artist Gallery and funding. However, reaching the artist community proved trickier than expected. This is when they engaged with me and I came up with the idea of starting an Art Prize that they could sponsor and effectively benefit and support a large number of artists.


CS: I was brought on shortly after by Conrad to focus on delivering this prize to the Artist Community in London initially. Right from the beginning we were all keen to create a prize that really had the artist at the centre, unlike most other prizes, and at every step of the way would offer practical information and support to help artists take control of their own profile. The initial year saw us surpass any expectations with the number of artists who attended our talks, entered the prize and engaged with us on our online community. Each year we try to develop this level of support further.


SG: What makes the The Ashurst Emerging Artist Prize, different from other opens?

CC: For one the sponsors are very involved with the process, we’ve had Ashurst Partners judge for us each year and increasing numbers of employees attend our events with their main interest being to meet the artists who are attending. Also, they host our informative talks series which have been a key part of the art prize. We were blown away with this level of support and interest, the Employees Choice Award has also grown exponentially each year with Ashurst Employees voting internationally for their favorite.


CS: We’re very much a prize who wants to support our artist community in taking control and developing their own profiles within an industry, which, is increasingly open to self-representation. We offer feedback on early entries that focuses on the practical side of Artists’ applications, promote work by every Artist who joins our community and actively encourage their peers to offer feedback. We also offer free talks covering practical topics like growing your art career, writing texts, promoting yourself which not only offer take home tips but also provide a chance for artists to spend time with their peers. Our RSVP lists now often exceed 200, really showing there is a need for this support. Alongside this we try to make sure we are as approachable as possible, if an artist has a question, needs advice or pointing in the right direction outside of the prize we’ll do our best to support. Myself and Conrad are the ones who read every email and social media interaction, we really think this gives us a great snapshot of the Artist Community which inevitably helps us develop the prize to suit the community in real time.


SG:  What role does this competition play within the contemporary art scene?

CC: We’re bridging the gap between Emerging Artists and Arts Professionals/Corporates/Emerging Collectors, increasingly we are seeing our artists picked up by Galleries or Collectors, often irrespective of winning the prize itself and I believe that’s because we are now seen as a trusted source of Emerging Artists. To be able to offer this provenance to our artists, we hope, in turn strengthens their individual profiles in the contemporary art scene.


CS: There has never been more viable time and more opportunities for Artists to self-represent and really take a lead on developing their profiles in the industry. Whether an entrant or otherwise, through the prize we’re building a community which is supporting each other in learning the practical skills to develop their own profile, we hope this puts us at the forefront of developing the self-representing level to the industry.


SG: What advice would you give someone entering The Ashurst Emerging Artist Prize?

CC: Submit a range of artworks – we judge each work individually because we understand Emerging Artists are often still finding their and voice and submit well thought out texts explaining your work and practice, the judges want the most rounded image of you possible!


CS: Lose the art speak when writing, the simpler and more succinct your text is the more confident and powerful it sounds. Engage with our community on Facebook. Twitter and Instagram, give constructive feedback on art works we post and support each other’s development, you never know what connections may come out of it!


SG: How does the selection process work? Are there particular characteristics that you and the jury look for?

CC: Every Artists’ work is presented to the judges. They highlight a long list, then we meet to discuss their favorites and look at each of these artists as a group. We deliberate this until we get down to 25 shortlisted artists. We’re open to artists covering a very wide range of mediums and of all backgrounds and ages be it self-taught, student, graduate, full time or part time artists. What we want to see is significant potential, interesting ideas and a relevant message, and of course that they can translate this to us strongly via their supporting texts.


CS: I stay out of the judging process but I do like to make a note of artists I feel strongly about and keep their details for future projects. We are often asked to propose artists to galleries and art projects, so have placed a few entrants with these. When looking at the submissions, I’d say that clarity in ideas are an important characteristic, the judges are seeing a lot of artwork so stand out by being clear in what your practice is.


SG:  Is there one entry that has stood out and you are still able to visualise from last year?

CC: Our Overall Winner Mirjam Siim will always stand out for me. I originally met Mirjam in 2014, selling her artwork painted on pieces of cardboard, on the pavements near Green Park, she was hidden away under scaffolding trying to avoid the rain but her work really caught my eye. After speaking with her more about the work we kept in touch. When the prize launched she was one of the artists I passed the details on to, so when last year’s Judging Panel resoundingly chose Mirjam as our 2016 Winner it was a good surprise for me.  We pride ourselves on judging submissions on the work alone and I feel Mirjam is a great example of everything we embody as the Ashurst Emerging Artist Prize and everything we talk about at our events and on our blog to drive Artists’ visibility; keep trying, be proactive, engage peers and professionals, apply to opportunities but be resilient.


CS: I was immediately drawn to Highly Commended Artist Kyveli Anastasiadi’s work. She submitted a photographic collage piece where she explores the sculptural nature of movement, Kyveli then went on to exhibit wall mounted wire sculptures that beautifully translated her photographic collage into a more abstract place, which she described as ‘space as extension of body, body as an extension of space’. As an ex-dancer myself the work really resonated with me and speaking with the artist was both fascinating and confirming of her ideas and practice.


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About the Prize:

Entry requirements
Currently open for entries. There are no restrictions based on age, training or nationality. Artists can submit up to 5 different artworks, from paintings, photography, mixed media and sculpture (excludes video art, sound art and moving image).

For full terms and conditions, eligibility and further queries, please contact or visit

Good luck!

About Conrad:

Conrad Carvalho, Prize Director

Gallery Director and Consultant, Conrad is an expert in emerging art, having started Oaktree & Tiger in South Kensington to launch a diverse selection of emerging artists, organising exhibits and placing their artworks with private clients around the world.  Conrad has also given lectures at Sotheby's Institute of Art and University of the Arts London, and various talks on art and business.  He is currently advising artists on promoting their own work to gain new collectors and attract gallery representation.  He works on a wide range of art projects and places carefully chosen emerging artists in a variety of projects and spaces, including corporate and commercial spaces.
You can see more at


About Caitlin:

Caitlin Smyth

Caitlin’s career spans nearly 14 years in the industry, having worked across a wide range of areas of the arts including receiving the Chelsea Arts Club Trust Research Fellowship and working at gallery CHELSEA space at Chelsea College of Art and Design, supporting not for profit, pop up and one off projects, and managing commercial sales. She now predominantly works with Emerging Artists and Art Platforms supporting their development within the industry under their own name. Caitlin’s work with the Ashurst Emerging Artist Prize involves supporting their outreach to the Artist Community, ensuring that the Prize continues to deliver a programme and competition that offers the maximum support to all of its artists, and stays ahead of the curve on delivering practical and useful information to their community.