Monday 15 February 2021

Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki announces the first annual Michèle Whitecliffe Art Writing Prize today aimed at encouraging high-quality writing about the art of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Michèle Whitecliffe has developed the award with the Gallery in memory of her late husband, Greg Whitecliffe, who was passionate about writing and seeing the arts celebrated in print.

Michèle Whitecliffe says the award was created to encourage more critical thinking and discourse in the New Zealand arts community.

‘I am passionate about the arts in New Zealand and I believe we need to see more of our visual arts being written about to encourage, challenge and help the industry grow and garner a wider interest,’ she says.

Whitecliffe says she and her husband began a legacy of supporting the arts when in 1983 they co-founded Whitecliffe Art School, now Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design, and plans to continue that legacy with this award.

‘This prize provides a new and competitive opportunity for writers to bring creative gusto to the practice of art writing in New Zealand,’ she says.

‘We want to help foster art writing in New Zealand by providing an incentive to write and we also want to play a part in strengthening the visual arts by championing criticism and reflection.’

The winner of the Prize will receive $2500 and see their winning entry published in Auckland Art Gallery’s magazine, Art Toi.

Auckland Art Gallery Director Kirsten Lacy says part of the Gallery’s duty is to nurture art writing and critical engagement.

‘The Gallery’s role is wider than exhibition making and its associated activities of public programming, publishing and collection development. We also need to actively nurture critical and creative thought about the visual arts and the cultural work they do in society – now and in the future. It is our hope that the Prize – which is open to all – will draw out new voices, encouraging those people to enter the debate and invigorate discussions about New Zealand art and culture. The more we write about art, the more we see,’ says Lacy.

Each year a theme will be announced which writers will address in their composition.

‘The aim is that, in the life of the Prize, writers will traverse a breadth of subjects, therefore making a strong contribution to the New Zealand art-writing canon,’ says Whitecliffe.

Any submitted text must be a work of non-fiction between 1500 and 3500 words in length, which addresses the theme for that year and an element of the New Zealand visual arts, including painting, sculpture, carving, photography, printmaking, illustration, installation, weaving, ceramics and video/film.

An independent guest judge appointed annually by Auckland Art Gallery and Whitecliffe will select the winner and, throughout the life of the award, artworks from the Greg Whitecliffe Collection will be sold to help fund the Prize.

The theme will be announced on Friday 12 March and submissions must be received by Saturday 31 July. The winner and two runners up will be publicly announced at a prize ceremony in November.



Greg Whitecliffe (Ngāti Pikiao) (1954-2001) was an artist, educator and co-founder of Whitecliffe Art School (now Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design) in Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand, an accredited degree-granting private college. He pursued an active career which varied from professional development in higher education management at Harvard University to stone lithographic workshops in Switzerland. He qualified with a Bachelor of Arts, two Masters degrees, a post-graduate course at Harvard and was working towards a PhD up until he died in 2001.

In the last years of his life, Greg had commentaries on New Zealand contemporary art and art history published internationally. He was a member of International Council of Fine Arts Deans (ICFAD) and was working towards establishing a purpose-built campus for Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design.

Michèle continued to run Whitecliffe College of Arts & Design until late 2018 when she sold the college to a new enterprise.

For more information, images and interview requests contact:

Priscilla Southcombe
Communications Officer, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki

M +64 21 548 480 | E