Paul Hamlyn Foundation established Awards for Artists in 1994 to provide individuals with financial assistance at a timely moment in their careers.

The awards aim to give artists the freedom to develop their creative ideas and to grow both personally and professionally, reflecting the Foundation’s strong belief in the value of artists to society. This unique scheme has benefited 175 artists with awards totalling £7.2 million.

The awards currently focus on visual artists and composers. From 2017, the number of awards given to composers rose from three to five, bringing them in line with those for visual arts. The amount awarded to each artist in both art forms also increased from £50,000 to £60,000 to recognise cost of living increases.

Initially, the awards were made to artists from different art forms each year. The first awards were made in 1994 to composers, followed by choreographers in 1995, visual artists (sculpture & installation) in 1996 and poets in 1997. There has been a consistent focus on visual artists since 1998 and composers since 2007.