Paul Hamlyn Foundation established Awards for Artists in 1994 to provide individuals with financial assistance at a timely moment in their careers.

The awards aim to give artists the freedom to develop their creative ideas and to grow both personally and professionally, reflecting the Foundation’s strong belief in the value of artists to society. This unique scheme has benefited 347 artists with awards totalling £10.54 million.

The awards currently focus on visual artists and composers. From 2017, the number of awards given to composers rose from three to five, bringing them in line with those for visual arts. The amount awarded to each artist in both art forms also increased from £50,000 to £60,000 to recognise cost of living increases.

In response to Covid-19, we did things differently in 2020 and 2021. We put our normal selection process to one side in 2020. In its place, every eligible visual artist and composer nominated for the 2020 awards – over 100 in total – received £10,000 each.

In 2021, the awards used the confidential nomination and selection process that we have used for decades, with a simplified model to alleviate the application burden on nominated artists, making 40 awards at £25,000.

In 2022, we returned to the usual Awards process, making awards to five visual artists and five composers.

Initially, the awards were made to artists from different art forms each year. The first awards were made in 1994 to composers, followed by choreographers in 1995, visual artists (sculpture & installation) in 1996 and poets in 1997. There has been a consistent focus on visual artists since 1998 and composers since 2007.