October 7, 2016 - Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki - Shannon Te Ao wins the Walters Prize 2016
October 7, 2016

Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki

Shannon Te Ao, Two shoots that stretch far out, 2013–14. HD video, single-channel, 13:22 minutes, colour, stereo sound. Courtesy of the artist and Robert Heald Gallery, Wellington.


Shannon Te Ao wins the Walters Prize 2016
Awarded by Doryun Chong, Deputy Director and Chief Curator, M+ Hong Kong
September 30, 2016

Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki
Corner Kitchener and Wellesley Streets
New Zealand

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Shannon Te Ao (b.1978) is the eighth recipient of the Walters Prize, New Zealand’s preeminent biennial contemporary art award. Initiated by Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki in 2001, the Walters Prize acknowledges an artist whose work is considered to be outstanding. The prize awards 50,000 NZD to the winning artist. 

Shannon Te Ao was selected by judge Doryun Chong, Deputy Director and Chief Curator of Hong Kong’s M+, for his presentation of Two shoots that stretch far out, 2013–14, single-channel, HD video work, and Okea ururoatia (never say die), 2016, living plants, furniture and lights.

Of Te Ao’s presentation, Chong said: “I was intrigued, touched, and moved. As I left the space of his art, I felt as if I had not only been teleported but also had been transformed. I imagined him citing those lines [of an historic Māori song] to the end of time, with the rabbits, ducks and chickens, wallaby, swan and donkey by his side, while the plants wither and die, and come back to life again, and then again.”

“I would like to thank him for helping me remember that a powerful work of art is sometimes created by an elegant formula of a simple gesture and repetitions. It is my distinct pleasure and privilege to announce that the winner of the 2016 Walters Prize is Shannon Te Ao.”

Chong made his selection from four exhibited works by artists Joyce Campbell (b.1971), Nathan Pohio (b.1970), Lisa Reihana (b.1964) and Shannon Te Ao (b.1978). These artists were selected by an independent jury over the prior two-year period for a work that enhances the practice and understanding of contemporary art in New Zealand. 

Of the experience of judging the exhibition Chong commented that: “The pleasure of finding yourself in an unfamiliar place comes from encountering images and ideas that override the framework for understanding the world. This occurs while challenging perception per se, even if the traveller believes he has seen and experienced much. The artworks being shown for the Walters Prize 2016, which I have had the privilege to judge, gave me the distinct impression that I was traveling to unfamiliar places.”

The invitation to judge the Walters Prize 2016 extends the legacy of engagement between key international figures and the contemporary art community in New Zealand, including judges Charles Esche (2014), Mami Kataoka (2012), Vicente Todolí (2010), Catherine David (2008), Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev (2006), Robert Storr (2004) and Harald Szeemann (2002). Previous prize winners are artists Luke Willis Thompson (2014), Kate Newby (2012), Dan Arps (2010), Peter Robinson (2008), Francis Upritchard (2006), et al. (2004) and Yvonne Todd (2002).

The Walters Prize was inaugurated in 2002 under the joint imperatives of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki and founding benefactors and principal donors, Erika and Robin Congreve and Dame Jenny Gibbs, in order to make contemporary art a more widely recognised, debated and prominent feature of the country’s cultural life. From 2004 Dayle, Lady Mace became a major donor. Auckland Contemporary Art Trust joined in 2014 as a principal donor, while Christopher and Charlotte Swasbrook are major donors. 

Shannon Te Ao was born in 1978 in Sydney, Australia. Te Ao is of New Zealand Māori descent with tribal affiliations to Ngāti Tūwharetoa. He lives and works in Wellington, New Zealand, where he lectures in art at Massey University.

Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki
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