The Walters Prize, New Zealand's most prestigious contemporary art award, returns to Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki in 2024. 

Named in honour of pioneering modernist New Zealand painter Gordon Walters (1919–1995), the Walters Prize is awarded for an outstanding work of contemporary New Zealand art produced and exhibited during the past two years. The biennial prize aims to make contemporary art a more widely recognised and debated feature of cultural life.

Artists are nominated by a panel of New Zealand-based jurors and the four finalists are invited to present their nominated works (or versions thereof) at the Gallery in a public exhibition. The winner is selected by an international judge and the NZ$50,000 prize is awarded by that judge in person at a dinner held in honour of the prize.

Previous winners and nominees form a long list of important and influential artists who continue to make an impact both in New Zealand, Oceania, Asia Pacific and Europe. Several finalists, including Lisa Reihana, Simon Denny, Francis Upritchard, Jacqueline Fraser, et al and Peter Robinson, have represented New Zealand at the Venice Biennale.

Over two decades, the artists’ presentations have responded to diverse cultural and political issues, reflecting trends in contemporary art practice across a broad range of media from painting, photography and installation to video and time-based media. 

The Walters Prize is made possible with the generous support of the following:

Founding Benefactors and principal donors

Erika and Robin Congreve 

Dame Jenny Gibbs

Major donors

Dayle, Lady Mace

Christopher and Charlotte Swasbrook 

Every two years Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki presents an exhibition by four artists who have been nominated for their outstanding contribution to contemporary art in New Zealand. The biennial Walters Prize is unique because it focuses on an outstanding body of work made within a two-year period, as opposed to an artist’s entire practice. The winner receives $50,000.

The prize is named after New Zealand artist Gordon Walters (1919–1995). Walters, a leading modernist, produced abstract art of remarkable refinement and stimulated an ongoing discussion about the interrelationships between European, Māori and Pacific visual art traditions.

Established in 2002, the Walters Prize was the initiative of Founding Benefactors and Principal Donors Erika and Robin Congreve and Dame Jenny Gibbs, working in partnership with Auckland Art Gallery. Our shared belief is in helping to increase access to and grow understanding of contemporary New Zealand art.

The 2024 Prize marks the 11th iteration of this prestigious award.

Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki establishes the external jury two years prior to the exhibition. This consists of four art professionals from outside Auckland Art Gallery whose job it is to determine which artworks exhibited over the two-year period contribute to enhancing art practice and the understanding of contemporary art in New Zealand. Regardless of an artist’s age, ethnicity or location, or in which part of the world it is presented in, their work needs to have exerted a remarkable impact or influence on the nature, perception or development of contemporary art in this country.

Four artists are nominated each year by a panel of four New Zealand-based jurors for a work or body of work exhibited in the previous two years. The four artists are invited to install the nominated works (or version of their nominated show) at the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki in a public exhibition.

To determine the Walters Prize winner from the four nominated artists, an international judge is invited to New Zealand to view the artworks presented here and assess their merits. The judge is an art professional with the highest of international reputations, and must be a leading figure in the curation of contemporary art.

Previous judges have included: Kate Fowle (2021), Adriano Pedrosa (2018), Doryun Chong (2016), Charles Esche (2014, Mami Takaoka (2012), Vicente Todolí (2010), Catherine David (2008), Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev (2006), Robert Storr (2004), Harald Szeemann (2002)

2021: Mata Aho and Maureen Lander, Atapō, 2020

2019: Ruth Buchanan, BAD VISUAL SYSTEMS, 2016/2018, mixed media installation

2016: Shannon Te Ao, Two shoots that stretch far out, 2012–14 and Okea ururoatia (never say die), 2016

2014: Luke Willis Thompson, inthisholeonthisislandwhereiam, 2012

2012: Kate Newby, Crawl out your window, 2010

2010: Dan Arps, Explaining Things, 2008

2008: Peter Robinson, Ack, 2006

2006: Francis Upritchard, Doomed, Doomed, All Doomed, 2005

2004: et al., restricted access, 2003

2002: Yvonne Todd for Asthma & Eczema, 2001

Previous years