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Visual ode to biculturalism wins $20,000 National Contemporary Art Award

28 July 2023

Artist Tawhai Rickard (Ngaati Uepohatu, Ngaati Porou) has won the prestigious $20,000 National Contemporary Art Award for a “nuanced and generous” installation titled Scenes from a Victorian Restaurant.

The winning work was selected by Melanie Oliver, highly respected arts curator and judge for the 2023 National Contemporary Art Award at Hamilton’s Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga O Waikato.

Announcing the prize at an awards ceremony held on Friday 28 July, Oliver said:

“Rickard’s work Scenes from a Victorian Restaurant invites viewers to take a seat at the table, challenging us all to engage in a discussion on the bicultural foundations of Aotearoa. It is a provocation that is nuanced and generous, prompting us to think about the ongoing impacts of colonisation, and our failings in terms of Te Tiriti. This work clearly speaks to the most pressing issues of our time.”

Through the National Contemporary Art Award’s traditional blind-judging process (concealing the artist names from the judge), Scenes from a Victorian Restaurant was chosen from an unprecedented volume of entries, with more than 420 works submitted by Aotearoa New Zealand based here and overseas. The 41 finalist works are now on exhibit at Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato until 12 November (free entry).

“Melanie Oliver has selected a truly extraordinary work from a selection that reveals the talent, depth, creativity and bravery of our contemporary arts sector” said Liz Cotton, Director of Museum and Arts, Waikato Museum.

“My congratulations go to all award winners and finalists, and deep appreciation to our award sponsors, without whom we would not be able to offer this award, and to our wonderful judge”.

The National Contemporary Art Award was launched in 2000 by the Waikato Society of Arts and has been facilitated and hosted by Waikato Museum since 2006. Leading New Zealand law firm Tompkins Wake is the principal sponsor and has supported the competition since 2014.

Winner of the 2023 National Contemporary Art Award, Tawhai Rickard (Ngaati Uepohatu, Ngaati Porou) with his work titled ‘Scenes from a Victorian Restaurant’.

The prize winners announced at the awards ceremony today are:

  • 2023 National Contemporary Art Award, $20,000 prize sponsored by Tompkins Wake
    Tawhai Rickard for Scenes from a Victorian Restaurant (reclaimed wood, enamel/acrylic paint).

  • 2023 Runner Up and winner of the $7,500 Hugo Charitable Trust Award
    Sung Hwan Bobby Park for BTM 조상 초상화 Ancestor Portrait (digital photograph). 
  • 2023 Friends of Waikato Museum $1,000 Merit Award winner
    Hannah Ireland for Stained Cheery Wine (watercolour, ink and acrylic on found window).
  • 2023 Random Art Group $1,000 Merit Award winner
    Sara (Hera) Tautuku Orme for Darling, Tēnei Au (photograph).

The Campbell Smith Memorial People’s Choice Award, worth $250, is sponsored by the Smith family as a tribute to the former Waikato Museum Director, artist, playwright and poet. It will be presented to the winner of the most votes by the visiting public just before the Award exhibition closes in November.

The finalists for the 2023 National Contemporary Art Award are:

  • Brett a'Court, Northland Te Tai Tokerau
    Thomas Kendall’s Affair (oil on prepared woollen blanket on canvas support)

  • Rachel Hope Allan, Dunedin Ootepoti
    Tuesday (photograph)

  • Colleen Altagracia, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau
    A kiss (electric cable, embroidery thread, magnet, crocodile clips, air)

  • Naomi Azoulay, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau
    Tehlor II (oil on stretched canvas)

  • Debbie Barber, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau
    When I rub the rocks on my jeans they polish differently. (clay, denim)
  • Jordan Barnes, New Plymouth Ngaamotu
    Adam (after Michelangelo) (graphite on paper)

  • Tori Beeche, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau
    The Daily Cosmic Order (oil on linen) 
  • Deborah Body, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau
    The remains of the day. (acrylic and oil on unstretched canvas) 

  • Emily Brown, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau
    Final Fantasy (toner print on silk) 

  • D Milton Browne, Dunedin Ootepoti
    Recycle Day (photograph - archival giclée inkjet print) 

  • Esther Bunning, Greytown Te Hupenui
    The gilded shift (photograph) 

  • Cathy Carter, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau
    Liquid Gold (Fujiflex Crystal Archive C-type silver halide photographic print)

  • Cathy Carter, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau
    Plunge, Klein Blue (giclée print on Hahnemühle Ultra Smooth paper)

  • Katherine Claypole, Whanganui
    Tears of Gabrielle (hand stitched metallic thread on painted stretched canvas)

  • Antony Densham, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau
    C15.2023 (acrylic on canvas)

  • Kim Fifield, Tauranga
    The Wrack Line (algae-based bioplastic, shell, macro-seaweed, barnacles, driftwood, plastic, leaves, feathers, sand, aluminium panel)

  • Alastair Floyd, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau
    Heavy Industries (acrylic paint, pigment ink, acrylic ink on Fabriano Artistico acid-free cotton rag)

  • Hannah Ireland, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau
    Stained Cheery Wine (watercolour, ink and acrylic on found window)
    Merit Award winner

  • Bena Jackson, Wellington Te Whanganui-a-Tara
    Flipping skateboards (pale) (mosaic - ceramic tiles, cement board, adhesive, grout, steel)

  • Reece King, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau
    Se’i ou va’ai (oil and enamel on canvas)

  • Cecelia Kumeroa, Whanganui
    Manu Tioriori (digital media)

  • Theo Macdonald, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau
    Light of the Pacific (digitised 16mm film)

  • Leanne Morrison, Hastings Heretaunga
    11 (acrylic and enamel on canvas, stretcher, wooden sticks)

  • Ella Grace Nicol, Hamilton Kirikiriroa
    Tears of Ranginui (Dew on the Emerald Dagger Moss) (glass beads, sterling silver, palladium, pewter, nylon thread)

  • Shannon Novak, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau
    Two Lovers in Fiordland (digital print on paper)

  • Mark O'Donnell & Cameron Rey, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau
    Cheese and Onion (yellow plastic, black foam, clear adhesives, pins, paint, varnish)

  • Sara (Hera) Tautuku Orme, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau
    Darling, Tēnei Au (photograph)
    Merit Award winner

  • Maria O'Toole, Wellington Te Whanganui-a-Tara
    Poems to Oceania: Vanuatu, April 2023 (crayon on Fabriano paper)

  • Sung Hwan Bobby Park, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau
    BTM 조상 초상화 Ancestor Portrait (digital photograph)
    Runner Up - 2023 National Contemporary Art Award

  • Marilyn Rea-Menzies, Westport Kawatiri
    Lichen 2 (handwoven tapestry)

  • Tawhai Rickard, Tauranga
    Scenes from a Victorian Restaurant (reclaimed wood, enamel/acrylic paint)
    Winner - 2023 National Contemporary Art Award

  • Naomi Roche, Hamilton Kirikiriroa
    Cold Comfort for the Contemporary Human (textile)

  • Warisara Thomson, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau
    I think I’m homesick (single channel, moving image)

  • Jenny Tomlin, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau
    All my ghosts (photograph)

  • Hannah Valentine, Tauranga
    New Routine (If there’s pleasure in action, there’s peace in stillness) (cast bronze and cord)

  • Anja Vallis, Taupoo
    Granny’s trippin’ (wool and acrylic yarn mix, black calico)

  • Rīhari Warnock, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau
    Moemoea (ink on Arches cold press, 600gsm paper)

  • Amanda Watson, Raglan Whaaingaroa
    In the sun near the kohekohe (ink, pigment, and glue size on canvas)

  • Siniva Williams, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau
    Nanna’s wairua (digital photograph, digitally painted on Hahnemühle German Etching 310gsm Textured Matte paper)

  • Benjamin Work, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau
    I look above to where my help comes from (acrylic on canvas)

  • Cora-Allan, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau
    Kai Paraoa (whenua (pukepoto and karangahape blush) on hiapo)


Details of the exhibition, which runs until 12 November, are available on the Waikato Museum website All artworks in the exhibition are available for sale and entry is free.

Note: For te reo Maaori, Waikato Museum uses double vowels (uu) in place of vowels with a macron (ū) to represent a long vowel sound. This spelling approach is the preference of tangata whenua in Hamilton Kirikiriroa and Waikato iwi for te reo Maaori words. Artists’ titles are shown in their original form.