Visa Gold Art Awards

28 August – 4 October 1998

The Visa Gold Art Award was established to encourage and support contemporary artists in New Zealand and over its seven- year history it has become one of our most prestigious and celebrated art competitions.

The work of the prize winners and selected finalists will be shown at the Auckland Art Gallery and the City Gallery, Wellington and we are delighted to announce that the McDougall Contemporary Art Annex will be the first ever South Island venue for this exciting exhibition.

Open to all New Zealand artists working in two dimensional media, the Award's sole judging criterion is artistic merit. The overall winner receives $15,000, and three merit prizes of $1,000 are awarded at the judges' discretion. This year's judges will be John McDonald, a highly respected art critic from the Sydney Morning Herald; Alexa Johnston, until recently the principal curator at the Auckland Art Gallery; and John Reynolds, a well known New Zealand artist and winner of the Award in 1993.

The Award had its beginnings when Visa started to commission works for an advertising programme. This brief was then given in the form of a competition to the Wellington Polytechnic. By 1991, the Visa Gold Art Award had become a national award with proscribed elements and a modest prize, and two years later the prize money was increased to its present level. The final evolution of the Award came in 1996, when entry was extended to include two dimensional media other than painting, such as photography and computer-generated images. The exhibition shown in the McDougall Contemporary Art Annex will not have been designed to hang together, rather it will be a collection of works with individual merit. In the past, this approach has resulted in eclectic and groundbreaking shows which offer a significant showcase for current contemporary art.

Previous winners of the Visa Gold Art Award have included some of the most talented and significant artists in the country. In 1994, Luise Fong and Canterbury artist Bill Hammond were announced as joint winners, and in 1995 Christchurch-based painter Tony de Lautour received the premier award. Dunedin artist Fiona Pardington won last year's competition with a photograph, Taniwha, and the merit prize winners included Joanna Braithwaite and Violet Faigan, both of Christchurch.

Since its humble beginnings, the Visa Gold Art Award exhibition has attained a deserved reputation as a significant and exhilarating display of work by outstanding New Zealand artists, and it will be most interesting to see who, and what, appears in the Contemporary Art Annex at the end of August.

This exhibition was held at the Robert McDougall Contemporary Art Annex in the Arts Centre.