MAC’s major £20,000 art prize now open for entries

Photo by Harrison Photography
Photo by Harrison Photography MAC International judges Marta Dziewańska, Katerina Gregos and Hugh Mulholland, with Sean Murphy, Regional Managing Director, Branch & Private Banking at Ulster Bank, and Suzanne Lyle, Head of Visual Arts, Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Leading Belfast arts venue, the MAC, has today launched MAC International 2016 – its international art prize that offers professional artists the opportunity to exhibit at the MAC, with a substantial prize of £20,000 awarded to the winner.

Now in its second year, MAC International is one of the biggest contemporary art prizes in Ireland and one of the few major prizes in the UK.  The international judging panel is searching for a new star from the visual arts world, asking artists worldwide to apply through an open submission.

MAC Senior Curator and judge, Hugh Mulholland, said: “I am very pleased to be joined on the MAC International Jury by two incredibly well renowned international curators. MAC International has quickly positioned itself as a must see exhibition and is an important international platform for artists. The exhibition and the significant prize on offer to an individual artist is a demonstration of the MAC’s continued commitment to supporting ambitious and challenging work within contemporary visual art practice.”  

The biennial prize was launched by the MAC in 2014 and the inaugural competition attracted over 1,000 submissions from more than 30 countries across the world.  However the jury of arts professionals chose a winner a little closer to home, with Tyrone-born artist Mairead McClean scooping the £20,000 Ulster Bank prize.

Former winner Mairead McClean said: “Nothing in the world is more exciting than a moment of recognition, a moment when the work you produce is recognised by others as prize winning. It’s only after do you realise that this is the beginning of a different stage in your life as an artist. Since winning the award, I have been invited to present the prize-winning entry across the world.”

Dr Suzanne Lyle, Head of Visual Arts, Arts Council of Northern Ireland said, “The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is delighted to once again support the MAC International prize and the resulting exhibition.  The MAC has made and continues to make a very significant impact on the cultural footprint of Belfast. A prize of this scope extends the reach of the MAC and the arts in Northern Ireland to new audiences, helping to put Belfast on the international stage for all the right reasons.”

Judge Katerina Gregos (Art Historian, Curator, and Writer from Brussels) said: “I am delighted to be part of the jury of this significant prize for contemporary art which provides a wonderful opportunity for international artists to showcase their work through an important exhibition in the magnificent spaces of the MAC, undoubtedly Belfast’s leading art space. Since its establishment in 2014, the MAC International is fast becoming one of the exhibitions to spot exciting artists from different generations and geographies.”

Fellow judge Marta Dziewańska (Curator and Writer, Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw) added:  “MAC International is an extraordinary opportunity for artists: the economic reason is always tempting, but I guess the context of the city of Belfast and its turbulent history is even more so. Being a part of the jury this year for me offers both challenge and adventure: it will not only inform my own practice, but will hopefully help me to grasp and understand this loaded and truly fascinating city.”

Artists, from any discipline and at any stage in their career, can now enter their submissions online at Closing date is 30 April 2016.  The winner will be announced in October 2016 at a prize ceremony at the MAC.  The exhibition will then open to the public, free to visit and will run until January 2017. For more information, visit

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