Monday, April 28, 2008


What’s happened to the Walters Prize? It’s only the fourth time round and already two of the four artists selected for having made an outstanding contribution to contemporary art in New Zealand are repeats. The judges obviously didn’t have a very high opinion of the depth of New Zealand contemporary art. And then there’s the blonded elephant in the room: et al. Their non-selection for the Artspace exhibition the fundamental practice - regroup, reorder, restore (easily one of the best shows in the two year prize period) makes us think there must be a Tiger Woods’ clause to ensure that no single artist (ok, ok, or a group of artists), don’t win the prize 3 or 4 times in a row. Fair enough. But what about the inclusion of John Reynolds with his work Cloud? Unlike all the other works that have ever been selected, this installation was shown as part of an exhibition (the Sydney Biennale), not as a solo show. We only make this point because the short list is explicit that the selections are based on specific exhibitions. Still good luck to John and Edith and Peter and Lisa.

Of course, like us, many of you will have your own a handful of exhibitions that you feel should have propelled their makers into the short list. And you do have to wonder whether the four institution-based judges: Govett-Brewster’s Rhana Devenport, University of Auckland’s Jon Bywater, and Andrew Clifford and Te Papa’s Elizabeth Caldwell (not the City Gallery’s Heather Galbraith as we guessed) get out enough. After all they claim their selection identifies “… those exhibitions that have done the most to focus and to steer the concerns of art and the way it is discussed in Aotearoa New Zealand.” So, did they all see et al. at Artspace, or Fiona Conner at Gambia Castle and Artspace, or David Hatcher’s Semantic Bliss at the Govett-Brewster, or Michael Parekowhai at Michael Lett, or Judy Millar at Gow Langsford, or Simon Denny at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery and Michael Lett, or Rohan Wealleans in Dunedin with Tatunka, or Julian Dashper at Sue Crockford or Michael Stevenson at the Arnolfini in Bristol? Or, if we’re in format-stretching mode, Australian Hany Armanious’s Morphic Resonance at the City Gallery?