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Lori Pensini wins Kilgour Prize 2021

West Australian artist and perennial Kilgour Prize finalist Lori Pensini has celebrated a breakthrough win in the prestigious $50,000 art prize with an intimate reflection on inter-racial relationships and her own family lineage.


The winner was announced tonight via an online call between Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes, Newcastle Art Gallery Director Lauretta Morton and the artist.

The Kilgour Prize exhibition was originally meant to open on 13 August, however Newcastle Art Gallery is currently closed in line with COVID-19 restrictions.

"While we are disappointed not to be able to share this news with Lori in person, we felt it was more important to pass on our congratulations without any further delay," Cr Nelmes said.

"The arts community has been hit hard by the effects of COVID-19, making this award and its $50,000 prize even more valuable at this time.

"The Kilgour Prize is highly regarded within the Australian arts community and attracted a record number of entries this year. I congratulate Lori on the quality of her work, Family 2021, which has seen her triumph over a tough field to join the prestigious list of accomplished artists who have taken out the Kilgour Prize.”

Family 2021 depicts family portraits painted on heirloom fine bone china plates, which Lori said were a "tribute to the inter-racial relationships of my colonial fore-bearers and the First Peoples of the southwest of Western Australia".

"These portraits are a continuum for myself and my art practice exploring the Indigenous lineage to my ancestry," she said.

"Each plate is unique to itself, honouring individual endeavours and fortitude. Collectively they embody the sense of 'family', of intimate bonds forged and the endurance of fervent relationships that defied racial vilification of the times."

Lori has been a Kilgour Prize finalist for five consecutive years, (2017-2021) and was the People's Choice winner in 2018 with another powerful portrait examining her Aboriginal ancestry.

The Kilgour Prize 2021 was judged by Newcastle Art Gallery Director Lauretta Morton, Campbelltown Arts Centre Head of Curatorial Adam Porter and the Head Teacher of Fine Art at Newcastle Art School, David Trout.

Ms Morton said the judges were impressed by the weight and substance of Lori's technically strong and innovative work, which explores the Australian identity to make a strong point in a beautiful and subdued way.

"There is a tension presented through this work – the portraits are haunting, but also mesmerising," Ms Morton said.

“It is not a divisive narrative, but one that embraces the individual stories behind this family portrait."

The Kilgour Prize is administered by Newcastle Art Gallery and funded by a bequest from artist Jack Noel Kilgour.

Newcastle Art Gallery received a record 476 works from artists across every state and territory in Australia for this year's Kilgour Prize, which presents some of the best examples of contemporary Australian portrait and figurative painting. Almost 2900 works have been entered into the Kilgour Prize since it was established in 2006.

While Newcastle Art Gallery remains closed during lockdown the Kilgour Prize 2021 exhibition showcasing the 30 finalists can be viewed at Votes for the People’s Choice Award can be cast online until 5pm on 6 October 2021. The winner will be announced on 11 October 2021 and awarded $5,000.


Lisa Adams, Gillian Adamson, Matteo Bernasconi, Jackson Booth, Catherine Boreham, Julie-Ann Brown, Simon Brown, Daniel Butterworth, Emily Jayne Carroll, John Dahlsen, Archer Davies, Rachelle Dusting, John Earle, David Fairbairn, Nick Fintan, Christine Fontana, Miriam Fraser, Michael Lindeman, Nunzio Miano, Robert O'Connor, Nathan Paddison, Lori Pensini, Alice Pulvers, James R Randall, Zeljka Reljan-Music, Grace Kemarre Robinya, Paul Ryan, Jason Tolmie, Mick Turner and Mark Tweedie.


Jack Noel Kilgour (1900–1987) was an Australian artist well-known for his academic approach to landscape and portrait painting. In 1987 Kilgour bequeathed funds for the creation of a major figurative and portrait art competition to be run in perpetuity. As one of Australia’s major art prizes, Newcastle Art Gallery is proud to be the home of the KILGOUR PRIZE.


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