People’s Choice Winner Announced for The Lester Prize

POSTED ON 02 December

Queensland artist Jess Le Clerc has won The Lester Prize $10,000 People’s Choice Award donated by the Baldock Family. This oil on canvas work Shadow and bloom features her three daughters swimming in a dam. This was the final prize to be announced for the 2020 Exhibition Season for The Lester Prize— one of Australia’s most prestigious art prizes.

Jess Le Clerc said “It’s been a big year for our little family of six, and not for the obvious frustrations that 2020 has brought the majority of us. In September, I had a seizure during a painting workshop I was running and the paramedics were called. After an MRI, I was immediately flown to Royal Brisbane & Women’s Hospital and underwent surgery for a sub-arachnoid brain aneurysm. It didn’t look hopeful I would survive and it was a tough couple of days—my husband and four kids all had to process so much. The good news is, I’m alive and recovering. We’ve come out the other side so grateful for life, that we have each other, and acknowledge the importance of being alive in the everyday. We’re no longer waiting for things to fall into place, or to get better—just being alive and appreciative for every moment is enough.

Finding out that I was selected as a Finalist for The Lester Prize was a massive thrill for me—it’s an award I admire greatly. To win the People’s Choice Award and to know the public enjoyed standing in front of the painting actually means more than anything. As a portrait painter, it’s my goal to hold the beauty of humanity in suspension for just a moment—to allow people to feel the love and connection they have for each other. Painting portraits is a beautiful and ancient method of making us appreciate humanity more. These wild girls of mine that I painted haven’t yet done anything noteworthy in the world, yet they live life like a day is all there is, and to me this is noteworthy. I wanted to show some of that wildness that we all want to remember and that is still inside each one of us.”

More than 4,500 people voted online or in person at The Lester Prize’s month-long exhibition since it opened at the Art Gallery of WA’s Centenary Galleries on 31 October 2020.

Other winners for 2020 include:
• Richard Lester Prize for Portraiture $50,000 – Serena Cowie, VIC for The conversation.
• Tony Fini Foundation Artist Prize $10,000 – Sebastian Galloway, TAS for Warm air, cool light.
• Minderoo Foundation Spirit Prize $10,000 – Stacey Evangelou, NSW for Warrior by spirit.
• Ashurst Emerging Artist Prize $5,000 – Kierah Falkner Babbel, VIC for Race car ya ya.
• Two Highly Commended Prizes – Daevid Anderson, WA for The dying slave – study; and Joshua Cocking, WA for Making plants – a portrait of Franque.

The 40 finalists featured in the Main Awards exhibition will now be part of a Touring Exhibition at St John of God Subiaco Hospital (8 Dec 2020 – 5 Jan 2021) and Murdoch Hospital (6 Jan – 8 Feb 2021) before travelling to Collie Art Gallery (19 Mar – 2 May 2021). An outdoor exhibition showcasing The Lester Prize Salon des Refusés/Semi-Finalist works on 2.4m high exhibition cubes will also be on display at St John of God Midland Hospital (14 Dec 2020 – 3 Feb 2021).

One lucky People’s Choice Award voter was randomly chosen and was thrilled to receive prizes from AGWA Shop, The Montauk Lighting Co. and Home Base Perth totalling over $2,000.

The Lester Prize received a record-breaking number of entries in 2020 with over 750 artists vying for selection in the main prize, and saw nearly 1,000,000 people visit their exhibitions at AGWA, Brookfield Place and Perth Cultural Centre, as well as participate in activities around the Perth CBD and online. A virtual exhibition of the Main Awards Finalists works at AGWA, big screen displays, in-person and online art workshops, demonstrations, and talks; as well as additional private functions and tours for sponsors were offered.

Formally known as The Black Swan Prize for Portraiture, this award is now in its fourteenth year. It was renamed in 2019 in honour of the award’s leading patron Richard Lester AM. Artists entered the competition from across Australia, submitting portraits of an Australian, or Australians, that they respect or admire, or a self-portrait.

The Prize has had over 4,800 artwork entries submitted, showcased more than 1,300 finalists from across Australia, and more than 4.2 million visitors have attended its exhibition season events and activities since its inception in 2007.

Annie Silberstein, Executive Director said “In a year where many opportunities for visual artists were postponed or cancelled, we were keen to engage in new ways with our artists, sponsors and the public, no matter their geographic location. These milestones are a testament to the support that The Lester Prize receives from the community, all of our partners and donors, and the incredible work done by The Lester Inc Board and our small hardworking team behind WA’s premier portrait prize. We are excited to see what 2021 will bring for The Lester Prize.”



The Lester Prize is managed by The Lester Inc, a not-for-profit organisation founded in 2007 to provide an avenue for artists to exhibit works of portraiture within Western Australia. With an annual prize pool worth over $90,000, it is now one of the nation’s most recognised and prestigious art prizes.

Working with government, peak arts bodies and community groups, it plays a critical role in helping to diversify WA’s local economy, grow cultural tourism, and activate spaces through creative placemaking. The Lester Prize is proud to provide locals and visitors with the opportunity to engage with the best of the artform each year in a format that puts the artists and community front-and-centre.

The Lester Prize’s exhibitions and public events program is targeted at diverse groups in the community and includes artist floor talks, workshops, live art demonstrations and pop-up community activations across the city.
The Prize advocates for Australian art and artists through a full month-long exhibition season, which includes:
• Main Exhibition of original artworks at AGWA’s historic Centenary Galleries
• Big Screen Displays at various locations around Perth including Perth Cultural Centre, Northbridge Piazza, Yagan Square, Myer Forrest Chase
• Virtual Gallery, online events and creative resources – head to / @lesterprize
• Youth Exhibition of original artworks at Brookfield Place Tower 2 (123-125 St Georges Tce, Perth)
• Outdoor Salon des Refusés and Community Exhibitions at Perth Cultural Centre and Brookfield
• Exhibition Book with Guided Art Practice Tutorials – available for purchase from The Lester Prize website