Language, power and histories: 2020 John Fries Award exhibition opens in March

February 10, 2021

One of Australia’s most anticipated early-career contemporary art events, the 2020 Copyright Agency John Fries Award exhibition, will open at UNSW Galleries on 13 March, when the winner of the $10,000 award will be announced.

John Fries Award 2020 Curator Miriam Kelly says, “This year, the finalist exhibition draws together artists whose richly conceptual approaches engage with systems of language, power and the construction of histories with sharp and critical wit.”

This year’s winner will be determined by a panel of guest judgesMiriam Kelly, Award curator 2019–2021; Cherine Fahd, artist and academic; Jaklyn Babington, inaugural Senior Curator of Contemporary Art Practice at the National Gallery of Australia; Stephen Gilchrist, Associate Lecturer of Indigenous Art at the University of Sydney; and Kath Fries, artist, former Viscopy board member, Chair of the John Fries Award committee and daughter of the late John Fries.

This year’s finalists are:

  • Darcey Bella Arnold, Melbourne, Vic – painting
  • Daniel Jenatsch, Melbourne, Vic – sound, video, installation
  • Sara Morawetz, Sydney, NSW/New York, USA – performance, video, installation
  • Ryan Presley, Brisbane, Qld – painting, drawing, performance
  • JD Reforma, Sydney, NSW – video, installation
  • Melanie Jame Wolf, Melbourne, Vic/Berlin, Germany – performance, sound, video, installation
  • Shevaun Wright, Melbourne, Vic/Los Angeles, USA – installation

The Fries family established the award in 2010 in memory of former Viscopy director and honorary treasurer John Fries, who made a remarkable contribution to the life and success of the organisation.

Exhibition details

The 2020 John Fries Award will be exhibited from 13 March to 17 April 2021 at UNSW Galleries, located within the UNSW Art & Design campus in Paddington. The exhibition is free of charge and open to the public. For more information visit

The exhibition was postponed in 2020 due to the ongoing restrictions surrounding COVID-19.

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