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Robert De Niro, shown May 18, has established an art prize named after his late father. ((Mary Schwalm/Associated Press))

Actor Robert De Niro has established a $25,000 US annual prize in honour of his late father, Robert De Niro Sr., who was an artist.

The actor announced the award Wednesday at the studio in Soho, Manhattan, where his father used to paint.

De Niro, Sr. was both a commissioned portrait artist and an abstract painter who worked in a frame shop and taught so he could pursue his art. He died in 1993 at age 71, but his son has preserved his studio, which is still filled with his paintings.

"When my father passed away, I wanted to preserve this for my kids, to know what their grandfather did," the younger De Niro said.

The first Robert De Niro Sr. Prize will be awarded in 2011 in a competition administered by the Tribeca Film Institute, the organization De Niro founded to create the Tribeca Film Festival and restore the economy in lower Manhattan after 9/11.

It will be awarded to a mid-career American artist who has made a significant contribution to the field of painting. A jury will select three finalists for the award.

De Niro Sr.'s art was in the news earlier this year when a gallery owner who represented him was sentenced to jail for fraud. His son was able to recover his paintings from bankruptcy proceedings for the Salander-O'Reilly Galleries.