The art awards scheme for offenders, secure patients and detainees

We’re the UK’s best-known prison arts charity. We’ve been awarding, exhibiting and selling artworks by offenders, detainees and secure patients for over 55 years.

Our awards receive over 8,000 entries a year – inspiring offenders to take part in the arts, work for achievement and transform their lives. Our national exhibition attracts 20,000 visitors – showing the public the talent and potential of offenders and people in secure settings.

We have no endowment or capital – our work depends entirely on donations.

Read more about us

Whitby Bay, HM Prison Hull, Orpington Methodist Church Silver Award for Mixed Media, 2015

Fine Art

There is a huge range of fine art being produced in criminal justice and secure settings around the UK. We find that 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).

This means that the Koestler Awards annually generates one of the most eclectic and unusual collections of fine art in the UK.

Koestler Awards fine art categories include:

  • Painting
  • Watercolour and Gouache
  • Drawing
  • Pastel
  • Mixed Media
  • Portrait
  • Sculpture
  • Digital Art
  • Graphic Novel
  • Mural and Wall Hanging
  • Printmaking
  • Photography
  • Ceramics
  • Textile Art

> View Fine Art Gallery