Incognito Art Show Co-founder, David Liston

Incognito Art Show Co-founder, David Liston

Since launching in 2021, the annual Incognito Art Show has become an exciting fixture on the Sydney art scene and has grown significantly – this year’s event will see over 10,000 pieces of art available for sale.

The premise is simple – contributing artists are asked to donate 1-3 artworks using provided materials and the work is then displayed anonymously, leaving art collectors to guess who the artists are and to buy the pieces they love.

Designed to raise funds for artists with disabilities, the show gives emerging artists across all genres the opportunity to showcase their talent to a large audience. They can also see their work hanging alongside big-name artists – Archibald Prize winners Blak Douglas and Julia Gutman have previously contributed, and this year Ben Quilty, Tony Albert and Tsering Hannaford are all on board.

We asked David Liston, the show’s co-founder, about the two arts studios being supported this year, the benefits of the show for art buyers and the best way for artists to maximise the opportunity for self-promotion.

Interview by Lisa Doust

Who did you found Incognito Art Show with, and what was the motivation behind it?

I founded Incognito with my brother Ed, who is a sales professional, and three other friends – artist Laura Jones, Zoe Paulsen, who is now the Fair Director of Sydney Contemporary, and Lockie Harris, a successful entrepreneur. We started work in late 2020 and had our first show in 2021.

When you read those co-founders’ job descriptions, it feels like it was very well considered and that I found people who had perfect skillsets for the job at hand. While there’s certainly truth to this, the reality was they were all art lovers who really liked the idea, got on board and worked hard on it.

We have three impact goals at Incognito:

  1. To financially support arts organisations with the donation of profits.
  2. To provide emerging artists with the opportunity to become professional artists.
  3. To inspire and develop a new generation of art collectors and supporters.

What are the benefits to contributing artists of joining in?

In terms of artists taking part, goal number two is for them. We like to elevate artists by promoting them to a very big audience using our media and marketing skills, as well as promoting every single artwork individually and tagging the artist on our Instagram ‘reveals’ after the show.

We’ve surveyed artists in the past to ensure we were delivering for them:

  • Nearly half saw commercial benefit as a direct result (47%), with 1 in 10 receiving commissions or sales directly attributable to Incognito.
  • 1 in 3 declared they grew their audience as a result of their participation.
  • 99.2% of artists said they would participate in the Incognito Art Show again.

Where will the show’s proceeds be going this year, and why have these organisations been chosen?

 We’re very conscious artists give a lot of art away for good causes so have mandated that funds raised in the show go to artists. In this year’s show, that means Studio A and We Are Studios.

 We originally went with Studio A for our first show because Laura had an existing relationship with them, and we saw how impressive, well-run and successful Studio A is at achieving its goals.

We Are Studios is an arts studio based in Western Sydney, which also has an impressive team and supports artists with disabilities to reach their creative potential. The organisation is just starting out and we want to help support its growth.

Fundamentally, both organisations support artists who need a bit of additional support in reaching their professional potential, which aligns perfectly with our goals.

How can contributing artists make the most of being a part of the show?

By celebrating and sharing their participation on their own social media channels – we pick a lot of that up and reshare it. We also invite artists to send in photos of themselves showing the back of their works, and then we publish them ourselves.

I would also encourage the artists to put all their details in the space provided on the reverse of their cards so whoever buys their work can find them. They can also make the most of it by generally getting involved in the community spirit. So many artists take part as buyers, too – they have made friends in the queue for the show and have also found other artists to work with.

What’s the best aspect of the show for art collectors?

Ultimately, the show delivers most for aspiring or new collectors, and the aspect that works best for them is the price. It might seem crass but lowering that barrier to entry to an affordable level is, for want of a better term, a ‘gateway drug’ – once people start buying art, it’s rare they stop!

As we all know, this is ultimately good for the artists, so we love the idea that people who first buy at Incognito will continue doing so into the future.

How has the show grown since being launched, and what is your key goal this year?

The show has grown pretty rapidly. The best measure of growth for us is how many artworks get turned in. In the first year, we set our goal at what we thought was a realistic 100 works… We received 1800! The next year we received 3500 works and last year we reached 5300. This year we’re tracking to have over 10,000 works for sale.

Our goal is always to sell as much artwork as we can, as quickly as we can. It’s always been the same – sell more, which raises more, which means we can give back more and grow more.

What makes you most proud of the annual show?

The one thing I love is that we’ve unintentionally built a community. The participating artists, the Studio A artists, the buyers, volunteers, donors and sponsors are all coming at the show from different angles, but they’re all very similar people in that they’re all art lovers and want to be good to other people by contributing to Incognito.

That’s what I think I like the most about it – the thousands of really good people involved.

Any tips for buyers?

One thing that’s worth remembering is that the bigger the show gets, the bigger the online element of the sale gets, so people will be able to buy from anywhere. There will be a fantastic selection of art to choose from –tell your followers and art-loving friends to subscribe to our emails via the website and follow our social media pages!

When and where will the show be held?

 The in-person sale will be held on 13 and 14 July at 410 Oxford Street, Paddington NSW 2021.

We’ll be open all week leading up to the show for people to come and view the artwork before sales open. Sales will continue online once the in-person sale has ended, so keep an eye on the website and take note of your favourite artworks.

Follow Incognito Art Show via @incognitoartshow or visit



In recognition of the generous contribution artists make to the Incognito Art Show, we are offering artists who have donated their work to the 2024 show the chance to win our full 6 Module Course. To be in the running, please send an email to using ‘INCOGNITO 2024’ in the subject line. The winner will be drawn once the in-person show has closed on 14 July… Good luck!