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Five Kiwi greats honoured with Arts Foundation 2018 Icon Award

09 May 2018
New artistic icons welcomed to a prestigious circle of 20 with Arts Foundation's greatest honour.

The Arts Foundation of New Zealand honoured artists Billy Apple, Fred Graham, Bill Manhire, Albert Wendt and Dame Gillian Karawe Whitehead last night at a prestigious ceremony at  Wellington’s Government House.

The artists were awarded the Arts Foundation of New Zealand Icon Award ­Whakamana Hiranga, which can only be held by a circle of 20 living artists at a time, by Governor General Her Excellency The Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy.

The Icon Awards celebrate the achievements of and acknowledge our living greats and offer a chance to learn more about their work and contributions according to Arts Foundation Chair, Garth Gallaway.

"There are some artists who  have a profound impact on the nation.”

The recipients join a living circle of 20 artists celebrated as icons. They received a medallion and pin designed by stone sculptor John Edgar. Each artist retains 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, Jack Body, Marti Friedlander, Peter Godfrey, and Dr Cliff Whiting were presented to the 2018 recipients by a family member representing the previous holder of the medallion.

The Prime Minister and Minister of the Arts  Culture and Heritage, the Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern, was also in attendance.


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 world¹s 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 Māori art movement. His sculptures are a unique fusion of Māori 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 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 40 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 Australasia¹s 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.

About the Arts Foundation of New Zealand Icon Awards - Whakamana Hiranga

The Icon Awards are the Arts Foundation's most prestigious awards, created to honour New Zealand’s greatest artists during their lifetime. Limited to a  living circle of twenty recipients, these artists have all made a significant contribution to New Zealand and to their art form.  Former Arts Foundation Trustee, Sir Hugh Kawharu, gifted the words whakamana i te hiranga to describe the Icon Awards. The words can be interpreted as to give honour at an occasion of great significance. Sir Hugh said that each Icon recipient shares his or her mana with fellow Icons through reciprocity, each Icon’s mana being enhanced through association with the group.

Thirty-eight Icons have so far been honoured with the award.

Ian Athfield (1940 ­ 2015) ARCHITECT
Barbara Anderson (1926 ­ 2013) WRITER
Jack Body (1944-2015) COMPOSER
Marti Friedlander (1928 ­ 2016) PHOTOGRAPHER
Peter Godfrey (1922 ­ 2017) MUSICIAN
Ralph Hotere (1931 ­ 2013) VISUAL ARTIST
Margaret Mahy (1936 ­ 2012) WRITER
Donald Munro (1913-2012) OPERA PIONEER
Arnold Manaaki Wilson (1928-2012) SCULPTOR
Dr Pakariki Harrison (1928-2008) CARVER
Alexander Grant (1925 ­ 2011) BALLET
Len Castle (1924-2011) POTTER
Don Peebles (1922-2010) PAINTER
Diggeress Te Kanawa (1920-2009) WEAVER
Hone Tuwhare (1922-2008) POET
Don Selwyn (1935-2007) ACTOR/DIRECTOR
Janet Frame (1924-2004) WRITER
Dr Cliff Whiting (1936 ­ 2017) VISUAL ARTIST
Jacqueline Fahey VISUAL ARTIST
Maurice Gee WRITER
Patricia Grace WRITER
Fred Graham SCULPTOR
Sir Peter Jackson FILMMAKER
Bill Manhire POET
Sir Donald McIntyre OPERA SINGER
Milan Mrkusich VISUAL ARTIST
Geoff Murphy FILM MAKER
Dame Kiri Te Kanawa OPERA SINGER
Greer Twiss SCULPTOR
Sir Miles Warren ARCHITECT
Albert Wendt WRITER & POET
Dame Gillian Whitehead COMPOSER