It’s the only contemporary art prize in New Zealand with ecology at its core.
Each year, the Estuary Art and Ecology Prize brings together artworks by local artists who have responded to the concerns of the estuary, highlighting the diversity and beauty of the environment as well as the need to look after it. The total prize pool is around $8300.
The criteria for judging is sectioned in two parts – conceptual engagement in which artists are invited to research and respond to the Tamaki Estuary, to underscore the ecological value of the waterway and encourage action against its pollution. It is also judged on artistic merit focussing on artworks that are intelligent and innovative to responses to ecology, and excel in the field of contemporary art practice.
The top 20 are selected for the finalists’ exhibition. The artworks are delivered to Malcolm Smith Gallery over the next few weeks and installed for the second round of judging, held just prior to the awards presentation on July 7.
The finalists announced earlier this week are Amanda Watson Green, Anne Yang, Brendan Kitto, Caroline Burton, Celia Walker, Gillian Green, James Wylie, Jana Wood, Jim Wheeler, John Johnston, Katy Metcalf, Kiran McKinnon, Marion Wassenaar, Michelle Farrell, Mish O’Neill, Reece King, Roma Anderson, Rozana Lee and Wei Lun Ha.
Zoe Hoeberigs, manager curator at Uxbridge Arts and Culture, says that this year Paul Brobbel, senior curator and Len Lye Curator at the Govett Brewster Gallery Len Lye Centre, is a judge. “He grew up in Howick so it is a treat to have him back at home for the awards.”
Paul, who went to Elm Park Primary, Bucklands Beach Intermediate and Macleans College, says: “Contemporary art wasn’t something I was aware of until I left high school. Studying art at high school towards further study was restricted to kids who can draw so I found my way to contemporary art through studying history and museology at Auckland University,” he says.
He’s been associated with the Museum of NZ Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, and with the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre, New Plymouth since.
“The invite to judge the Estuary Awards was a welcome opportunity to think about contemporary art in my home town, something I’ve rarely had the chance to do.
“Having spent nearly my entire career away from home it was interesting to bring the two things together for the first time and think about my home from an environmental perspective,” he says.
“Looking at the art works submitted, it wasn’t easy selecting a top-20 as there was a very consistent quality – which points to the strength of the awards themselves, having run successfully over the years.
“But there several that really hit a high note and I’m looking forward to seeing them installed for the final judging.”
First place: $5000, Second place: $2000 – both donated by Howick Local Board. There are also two Merit Awards: a $150 Gordon Harris Gift Voucher. The People’s Choice Award of $1000 was donated by the Rice Family Partnership.