The Walters Prize 2021

Sat 15 May 2021 — Sun 5 Sep 2021

The Walters Prize 2021

Sat 15 May 2021 — Sun 5 Sep 2021

Just announced: Mata Aho Collective and Maureen Lander win the Walters Prize 2021.

Aotearoa New Zealand's contemporary art award, the Walters Prize returns to the Gallery in 2021 for its tenth iteration.

Named in honour of pioneering modernist 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.

Previous winners were; Yvonne Todd for Asthma and Eczema (2002), et al. for restricted access (2004), Francis Upritchard for Doomed, Doomed, All Doomed (2006), Peter Robinson for ACK (2008), Dan Arps for Explaining Things (2010), Kate Newby for Crawl out your window (2012), Luke Willis Thompson for Inthisholeonthisislandwhereiam (2014), Shannon Te Ao for Two shoots that stretch far out 2013–14  and Okea ururoatia (never say die) 2016 (2016), and Ruth Buchanan for BAD VISUAL SYSTEMS (2018).


Fiona Amundsen

Nominated for: 

A Body That Lives, 2018, Exhibited ST PAUL St Gallery, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, 28 September 2018–26 October 2018

A Body that Lives te reo Māori translation
43.11kB pdf file

Mata Aho Collective and Maureen Lander

Nominated for: 

Aka, 2019, Exhibited Àbadakone | Continuous Fire | Feu continuel, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, 8 November 2019–5 April 2020

Atapō te reo Māori translation
36.86kB pdf file

Sonya Lacey

Nominated for: 

Weekend, 2018, Exhibited in the group exhibition Solo, The Dowse Art Museum, Wellington, 10 November 2018–17 March 2019

Weekend te reo Māori translation
33.32kB pdf file

Sriwhana Spong

Nominated for: 

Now Spectral, Now Animal, 2019/2020, Exhibited Edinburgh Art Festival, 2019 and Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, 22 February–7 June 2020

The painter-tailor te reo Māori translation
36.02kB pdf file

Jury statement

'Given the strength of art and exhibition practices at present, selecting four finalists whose work has made an outstanding contribution to contemporary art in this two-year period proved challenging. The work of this year’s finalists addresses how histories are experienced, recounted and kept alive in the present, intergenerational and ethical relationships, and the circulation of information through various media. The particularities of each project are distinct, each advancing contemporary practice materially, conceptually and spatially.'


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Sriwhana Spong’s The Painter-tailor | Live performance 14 Aug
Sriwhana Spong’s The Painter-tailor | Live performance 14 Aug



Interdisciplinary artist Frances Libeau (they/she; fka Claire Duncan) works at the intersection of sonic composition, text and performance with an interest in queer remediations of narrative and technologies. Their composition, sound design, writing and performance works have been commissioned by artists and organisations across fields of music, fine art, film, theatre and dance. 



What is the Walters Prize?

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 Walters Prize is unique because it focuses on an outstanding artwork or body of work made within a two-year period, as opposed to an artist’s entire practice. 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.

The prize, established in 2002, 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.

How are the artists nominated?

The Gallery establishes an 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, their work needs to have exerted a remarkable impact or influence on the nature, perception or development of contemporary art in this country.

This year the jury members were:

  • Charlotte Huddleston, Former Director, ST PAUL ST Gallery, Auckland University of Technology 
  • Melanie Oliver, Former Senior Curator at The Dowse Art Museum, Lower Hutt, now Curator, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū
  • Nathan Pohio (Kāi Tahu), Artist, Assistant Curator, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū
  • Allan Smith, Freelance curator/writer and senior lecturer, Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland

Who selects the winner?

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.

This year’s judge will be announced soon. The judge will announce the winner at an awards dinner on Saturday 7 August.

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

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