The 16 finalists in the nation’s richest indigenous arts prize, the Western Australian Indigenous Art Awards, were today announced by State Culture and the Arts Minister, John Day.
Mr Day congratulated the artists who have been invited to participate in the awards exhibition and have the opportunity to share in $65,000 in prizes.
In the third consecutive year of this award, it has become established as a fixture on the indigenous arts calendar, he said, and 185 nominations (down from 213 last year) were received from arts organisations nationally. The awards are the cornerstone of the State’s support for indigenous visual arts development. Despite the Minister’s enthusiasm, the WA Awards will be held biennially from now on.

In the light of its current prominence, art from the APY Lands is the largest group on show, with three Pitjanjatjara artists “ Harry Tjutjuna, Nura Rupert and Nellie Stewart. Then there are two Walmajarri artists from WA “ Sonia Kurrara and Wakartu Cory Surprise, who won the State art prize last year when Ricardo Idagi’s Merian masks took out the big one. Ken Thaidy Snr is the artist from Mer selected in 2010. But the WA Award’s discomfort with Arnhemland is apparent once again with a single selection “ the incomparable Gulumbu Yunupingu from Yirrkala.

Amongst the 6 urban artists chosen, it’s an excellent year for Christian Thompson; for, earlier the photographer won a two year scholarship to Oxford University “ one of the first two Aborigines ever to attend that great institution. Judy Watson, Yhonnie Scarce and rea are selected with Thompson, as are Darwin’s Pauline Moran and Brisbane’s Richard Bell, currently resident in New York.
The selection panel for the Western Australian Indigenous Art Awards 2010 consisted of two indigenous curators and academic Brenda L. Croft. Stephen Gilchrist is at the NGV and Glenn Pilkington at the WA Art Gallery, which will host the three month long show of the artworks presented by each artist. For the WA Awards are given for a selection of works, not a single piece.
The three non-acquisitive awards total $65,000:  The Western Australian Indigenous Art Award of $50,000; the Western Australian Artist Award of $10,000; and the People’s Choice Award of $5,000.

The exhibition will be on display at the Art Gallery of Western Australia from July 31, when the first two winners will be announced. Entry to the exhibition is free.