The Sotheby's Prize

The Sotheby's Prize is an annual award of up to $250,000 to support and encourage museums to break new ground. The grant aims to recognize curatorial excellence, and to facilitate exhibitions that explore overlooked or under-represented areas of art history.

2019 Prize

2018 Winners

Congratulations to the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, winner of the 2018 Sotheby’s Prize. To read more about this exhibition, and the five that were commended, click here.

The Jury

Connie Butler


Chief Curator at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles

“One of the really meaningful things about The Sotheby’s Prize is that it supports advanced curatorial thinking. That, at a moment in our culture when expertise of all kinds is going out the window, or being diluted, feels very important.”

Connie Butler has organised numerous exhibitions including Made in LA (2014), Mark Bradford: Scorched Earth (2015) and Marisa Merz: The Sky Is a Great Space (2017) at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, where she is Chief Curator. She also organised the first major Lygia Clark retrospective in North America at MoMA in New York in 2014, and the internationally acclaimed exhibition WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution (2007) at MOCA Los Angeles.


Donna De Salvo

Julian Cassady Photography

Senior Adjunct Curator, Special Projects, Dia Art Foundation

“I know in my own work that the exhibition is a form, and like any form you want to push it as far as you can, so that each new iteration presents a new opportunity. To push beyond any conventional notion of what an exhibition can be: I think that’s what we’re looking for.”

In a newly-created role at Dia, Donna De Salvo advises on the collection, exhibitions and long-term installations while also developing their archive. Prior to her appointment, she was Deputy Director for International Initiatives and Senior Curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art, where she lead the museum’s efforts to define and communicate an expanded notion of art in the United States. She has organised exhibitions of the work of Robert Irwin, Roni Horn, Lawrence Weiner, Anish Kapoor, Gerhard Richter, Ed Ruscha, John Chamberlain, Barbara Kruger, Barnett Newman, Cy Twombly and, most recently, the highly acclaimed Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again.

Emilie Gordenker


Director of the Mauritshuis, The Hague

“The Prize is looking to encourage innovation – new ideas, fresh approaches to presentation, shows that bring unexpected things together, that create a dialogue that allows you to look at things in a new way. Those are often really hard to get off the ground because people can be sceptical.”

Emilie Gordenker has been Director since January 2008 of the Mauritshuis, where she has led the major renovation and expansion of the museum, completed in June 2014. She has worked for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Frick Collection and the Netherlands Institute for Art History, and lectured at Rutgers University, New York University, Vassar College and the Bard Graduate Center for Decorative Arts. In February 2020, Emilie will become general director of Amsterdam's Van Gogh Museum.


Allan Schwartzman


Founder and Principal of Art Agency, Partners and Chairman of the Fine Art Division of Sotheby’s

“Last year we recognised projects varying in scale, and in their geographical and historical focus. Shows approaching a movement from a different perspective, re-examining popular culture, recontextualising a specific artist, or even rethinking the nature of what a museum is.”

Allan Schwartzman has more than 20 years’ experience in advising some of the world’s most important collectors in forming their holdings of contemporary art, both individually and in conjunction with their stewardship of major museums. He is also widely respected as a curator, most notably for Instituto Inhotim, the visionary contemporary art park in Brazil, where as Creative Director and Chief Curator he has been central to developing the collection of the renowned institution and commissioning its site-specific works.


Sir Nicholas Serota 


Chair of Arts Council England

“It’s at that moment when museums are fighting to bring resources together to make a great show on a subject that is perhaps unknown, not necessarily popular, not necessarily attractive to sponsors, that The Sotheby’s Prize makes all the difference.”

Sir Nicholas Serota is Chair of Arts Council England. He was Director of Tate from 1988 to 2017, during which time Tate opened Tate St Ives (1993, and extension 2017) and Tate Modern (2000, and extension 2016), redefining the Millbank building as Tate Britain (2000). Under his stewardship Tate also broadened its field of interest to include 20th-century photography, film, performance and occasionally architecture, as well as collecting from Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Sotheby’s Prize?
The Sotheby's Prize is an annual award of up to $250,000 to support and encourage museums to break new ground. The grant aims to recognize curatorial excellence, and to facilitate exhibitions that explore overlooked or under-represented areas of art history.

Who can apply for the Sotheby’s Prize?
The Sotheby’s Prize is available to institutions, curators and museum directors worldwide.

How do I apply for the Sotheby’s Prize?
Visit to submit an application.

When do applications open?
Applications for 2019 opened on 12 March.

What is the deadline for application?
The deadline for applications is 1 July 2019.  

What is required for the application?
The application consists of four sections. A one-page summary of the proposed exhibition; a status report on the exhibition, indicating how far along it is in the planning; the amount of funding required; an exhibition budget; and a letter(s) of support from the director of the institution hosting the exhibition. 

Is there a deadline by which the exhibition must be realized?
There is no fixed deadline by which the exhibition must be realized. However, the jury will assess the viability of each proposal, meaning it will have to be fully thought through in terms of timeline, budget, loans, etc.

Can I apply for an exhibition already in the planning? 
Yes, you can submit an application for an exhibition already in the planning. However, please note that exhibitions that will open on or before 1 March 2020 will not be eligible for consideration this year.

Is the prize only available to exhibitions of Contemporary art?
No. We encourage applications from projects covering all periods and geographies.  

What happens after I submit my application?
Upon submission you will be able to track your application on the application site. The jury will meet in September 2019 to make its final decision.

Who will select the winner? 
The winner will be selected by a jury comprising of Sir Nicholas Serota (Chair, Arts Council England), Connie Butler (Chief Curator at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles), and Donna de Salvo (Senior Curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York) and Emilie Gordenker (Director of the Mauritshuis in The Hague)The jury will be chaired by Allan Schwartzman (Chairman of the Fine Art Division of Sotheby’s).

How often is the Sotheby’s Prize awarded?
The Sotheby’s Prize is awarded annually.

What do I do if I have further questions?
Please email with any further questions.

The 2017 Sotheby's Prize

More About the Sotheby's Prize

Sign Up to Receive Emails About the Sotheby's Prize