10 May 2018
Exceptional New Zealand artists Billy Apple, Fred Graham, Bill Manhire, Albert Wendt and Dame Gillian Karawe Whitehead have been awarded the Arts Foundation of New Zealands highest honour, the Arts Foundation of New Zealand Icon Award – Whakamana Hiranga.
The recipients received their awards from the Governor General, Her Excellency The Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy at a prestigious ceremony at Government House, Wellington. The Prime Minister and Minister of the Arts Culture and Heritage, the Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern, also attended in the dinner.
The artists were awarded for their significant contributions to the arts and to the lives of New Zealanders.
Arts Foundation Chair, Garth Gallaway, said "There are some artists who have a profound impact on the nation. The Icon Awards celebrates the achievements of those artists so that all New Zealanders can acknowledge our living greats and to learn more about their work and contributions".
The 2018 recipients were selected by Arts Foundation Trustees and Governors.
The recipients join a living circle of twenty artists celebrated as Icons and receive a medallion and pin designed by stone sculptor, John Edgar. The artist has the pin forever, while the medallion is presented to a successor at a future ceremony.
In a moving part of the ceremony, the medallions of Sir Ian Athfield (architect), Jack Body (composer), Marti Friedlander (photographer), Peter Godfrey (musician) and Dr Cliff Whiting (artist, heritage, advocate, teacher) were presented to the 2018 recipients by a family member representing the previous holder of the medallion.
Thirty-eight Icons have been honoured with the award. Previously awarded recipients include Janet Frame, Margaret Mahy, Ralph Hotere and Sir Peter Jackson.
About the 2018 Icon Award Recipients
Billy Apple ONZM – Visual artist
In 1962 London, Billy Apple took the radical step of changing his name in order to establish a new identity as an art brand. In this self-branding manoeuvre, where he became a work-of-art, he removed the arbitrary distinction between art and life so was able to claim everyday objects and life activities as art. To this day, Apple draws inspiration from reality and the world we live in and continues to exhibit in the world’s most celebrated institutions.
Fred Graham ONZM – Carver & Sculptor
Fred Graham is a world-renowned carver and inspiring teacher who has generously shared his knowledge and skills with his peers as well as with emerging artists. He is an influential figure within the contemporary Maori art movement. His sculptures are a unique fusion of Maori and European cultures, often combining traditional wood and stone with modern materials to explore sometimes controversial issues. He has many sculptures displayed in prominent public spaces in New Zealand. Te Papa Tongarewa and Parliament – as well as commissioned works in several other Pacific Rim countries.
Bill Manhire CNZM – Poet & Writer
Since his book of poems in 1972, The Elaboration, which features drawings by artist and fellow Icon, Ralph Hotere, Bill has received innumerable accolades for his innovative and diverse anthologies. Bill is also probably one of the few poets ever to reach the Antarctica. He has been a significant figure in promoting New Zealand poetry and literature not only through his own writing but through his work as a lecturer, critic, anthologist, and broadcaster, and in his appearances at writing festivals around the world.
Albert Wendt ONZ CNZM – Poet & Writer
Albert Wendt has been writing and publishing since the early 1960s and is recognised internationally as one of New Zealand’s, Samoa’s, and the Pacific’s major novelists, poets, and intellectuals. Over the past forty years, his writing, his teaching and research have helped change how Samoa, the Pacific, and New Zealand are perceived.
Dame Gillian Karawe Whitehead DNZM – Composer
Dame Gillian Whitehead is one of Australasia’s most influential composers of our time, whose steady stream of works include operas, orchestral works, choral pieces, vocal and instrumental chamber compositions, solo works, pieces involving taonga puoro and compositions including improvisation.