Make a big difference to The Big Idea.  Help us tell the most creative stories.

Home  /  Stories  / 

2022 Arts Icons Revealed

13 Nov 2022
A trio of talented creatives have been elevated to the rarified air of Arts Icon status. Meet the latest additions to a unique collection of Aotearoa artistic minds.

Good things come in threes - so, it seems, do iconic ones.


One of the most exclusive clubs in the creative community has three new members, with the Arts Foundation’s latest Arts Icons named this morning.


There are no forms to fill out, no CV or hype reel to circulate - this is invite only.


It’s a cohort of creatives that has a cap - it can contain only twenty living artists that the selection panel consider “New Zealand’s most significant artists, honoured for their extraordinary lifetime achievements and mark on the arts.”


The new trio of Arts Icon Award recipients have carved reputations in their chosen fields, and comprise of two renowned visual artists and one hugely credentialed filmmaker.


Dame Jane Campion DNZM – Film


New Zealand director, producer and screenwriter Dame Jane Campion needs no introduction, no matter how invested someone is in the creative community.


She’s garnered countless international headlines as one of contemporary cinema’s most successful and determined filmmakers. Never one to let her career be dictated to by pre-prescribed limitations, she made history in 1993 with The Piano - becoming the first female director in history to receive the Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival.


Dame Jane originally came to the attention of many with her work on An Angel At My Table - coincidentally about the life of a fellow Arts Icon alumni, the late Janet Frame. She joins fellow directors Sir Peter Jackson and the late Geoff Murphy to achieve Arts Icon status. 


Most recently, Dame Jane (below) has cleaned up with The Power of the Dog - a film that she wrote and directed that garnered her the Silver Lion for Best Director at the Venice Film Festival, the Oscar for Best Director, BAFTA Awards Best Film and Best Director and Golden Globes Best Motion Picture & Best Director Motion Picture.



She has also shown a determination to film these worldwide successes here on New Zealand soil.


Dame Jane simply states, “I am grateful to be chosen for the Icon Whakamana Hiranga award, and happy and excited to be a part of New Zealand’s flourishing arts community.”



Dame Robin White DNZM – Visual Arts



Dame Robin White (Ngāti Awa) has forged a career that has been celebrated on our shores and beyond, including being honoured as an Arts Laureate.


With her work held in all major collections around the country, Dame Robin has had an extraordinary and versatile career.


From her focus on her New Zealand landscapes and portraits in the 1970s to shift to Kiribati - Dame Robin’s creative output was strongly impacted by a fire that destroyed her home and studio in 1996. It saw her turn her mahi toward collaborative art-making; merging principles and methods from western art practices with those of Moana Oceania.



For Dame Robin, the award means “business as usual, but with a heightened sense of responsibility and - as the intimations of mortality become more insistent, a growing sense of urgency to get things done.”



Papali'i Fatu Feu'u ONZM – Visual Arts


It’s already been a big year for Fatu Feu’u, awarded Creative New Zealand’s Senior Pacific Artist Award for his outstanding contribution to art and his role as a leader within the Pacific Arts Community.


Feu’u brings so much to the table as a creative force -  admired internationally as an artist, leader and mentor in a career spanning more than quarter of a century. 



He has been pivotal in shaping the interest in contemporary Pacific art globally, and nurturing a generation of Pacific artists locally. His works frequently blend traditional and contemporary elements, incorporating a range of influences, inspirations, techniques and motifs from Samoa and Aotearoa and more generally from Euro-American to Pacific cultures.


Feu'u is emotional about this latest recognition.


“I never dreamt that I would be awarded this - but thanks to those who put my name forward. The award helps me fulfil my mother’s wish before she died – she told me that if I could be successful in my art I could then look after my father, sisters and brothers. If I apply myself and work hard enough – I could support my family. 


“She believed that the Arts could feed a family for the next three-to-four generations from the success of one person.”



Selected by a panel that includes Arts Laureate Don McGlashan, Arts Foundation Patron Dame Patsy Reddy and trustees Anne Noble and Tanea Heke, the criteria for Arts Icon Award status is:


  • Reached or are working at the peak of their careers
  • Been demonstrably dynamic and influential in their field
  • Made a major contribution to the artistic and cultural life of Aotearoa and our understanding of ourselves as New Zealanders
  • Made a major contribution to their own art form – and possibly also to others
  • Produced a significant and distinguished body of work, of outstanding quality and excellence
  • An international standing or reputation (or in the case of an art form unique to Aotearoa, have demonstrated a mastery in their discipline equivalent to world standards)
  • Taken work of Aotearoa to the world and brought the world’s attention back to Aotearoa by demonstrating what is remarkable and special about us – and are therefore representative of this country and its people and our hopes and achievements as a nation

Each Icon receives a bronze medallion set with pounamu and a pin designed by sculptor John Edgar. The recipient is given the pin, while the medallion passes on to a future Icon at the time of their death.


This year marks a total of forty-four artists honoured as Icons since the beginning of the awards. Twenty are living, and twenty-four have passed on, which most recently includes Billy Apple, Sir Miles Warren, and Russell Kerr. 


The new Icons will be the centre of attention at an official ceremony at Government House on 14 December.