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Celebrating 20 years of the National Contemporary Art Award

2 December 2020

A celebratory exhibition showcasing works from past winners and finalists of the National Contemporary Art Award is set to open at Waikato Museum on 5 December, following the cancellation of the 2020 competition earlier this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The works featured in the Raa Whaanau exhibition have been selected from the Trust Waikato Art and Taonga Collection, The Friends of the Museum Collection and the Waikato Bequests Trust Collection, all of which form part of the wider Waikato Museum collection.

Each year the National Contemporary Art Award brings the best in Aotearoa contemporary art to Hamilton and the Waikato. Entries are drawn from across the country and from New Zealand artists living overseas. 

This year’s lockdown came at a critical period for the entry timetable, casting doubts over the event staging and standards. As a result Waikato Museum regretfully had to cancel the 21st running of the Award.

Waikato museum has spent months investigating alternative ideas to mark this significant milestone for the competition and has announced a retrospective exhibition of artworks that reflect the great diversity and calibre of past judges and artists alike.

Waikato Museum Director Cherie Meecham said this celebratory exhibition is an opportunity to showcase the past 20 years of the Award to visitors from the Waikato and the rest of the country. “The decision to cancel this year’s event was difficult but the right thing to do to protect our artists and to safeguard the reputation of this premier national art competition,” she said. “But I’m delighted we’re now in a position to make a bold statement about artworks rising above the long shadow of a pandemic and I look forward to celebrating the Award’s 21st anniversary in 2021.”

Leading law firm Tompkins Wake and nationally-renowned Chow:Hill Architects, who have co-sponsored the Award since 2014 and 2015 respectively, remain committed to supporting the competition when it returns next year.

The judge for the 2020 competition, Dowse Art Museum Director Karl Chitham, has also confirmed his availability to judge the Award in 2021.

The exhibition runs from 5 December 2020 until 24 January 2021, daily from 10am to 5pm. Entry is free.

The National Contemporary Art Award was launched in 2000 by the Waikato Society of Arts and has been managed by Waikato Museum since 2006. Details of all exhibitions are available at


Image: Detail, Dane Mitchell, Collateral, 2009, mixed media installation. 2009 Contemporary Art Award winner.



For more information:

Elias Koronis, Communications Advisor

Ph 021775691;