Unlock the talent inside

Since 1962 the Koestler Awards have played a unique, national role in motivating prisoners, secure hospital patients and immigration detainees to take part in the arts. The Koestler Awards are simple and powerful – we reward achievement, build self-confidence and broaden horizons for some of society’s most disadvantaged and marginalised people.

Our work harnesses the uniquely transformative power of the arts to help individuals learn the skills and gain the confidence to live creative, positive and productive lives. Each year we receive more than 7,000 entries from over 3,500 entrants across the UK in 52 categories. More than 2,000 Awards are granted by over 100 esteemed judges, and each year culminates in a curated exhibition at Southbank Centre which showcases the incredible power of the arts to transform lives.

Read more about us

  • Visual Art

Onion Studies, HM Prison Holme House, Under 25s Special Award for Drawing, 2021

Visual Art

There is a huge range of fine art being produced in criminal justice and secure settings around the UK. Engaging with fine art is often one of the first steps into education for many people in secure settings.

Many entrants to the Koestler Awards make work for their friends or families. Portraits, in particular, are given as gifts or commissioned from photographs. Others make artwork for qualifications or college portfolios, or simply for the joy of experimenting with materials and ideas. Some work is made using materials in prison art departments, but people in secure settings can also purchase their own materials or experiment with every day or recycled materials (such as bread, soap and papier-mâché).

Each year the Koestler Awards generate one of the most eclectic and unusual collections of fine art in the UK.

Koestler Awards visual art categories include painting; watercolour and gouache; drawing; pastel; mixed media; portrait; sculpture; digital art; graphic novel; mural and wall hanging; printmaking; photography; ceramics; and textile art.

Online Gallery

See award-winning visual artwork from previous Koestler Awards below.