The prize money doubles for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards, making it Australia’s most valuable art award

The winners of Australia’s largest and most prestigious Indigenous art awards will be announced tonight in Darwin, with everyone taking home a piece of what is currently the richest art prize in the country.

The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards accept entries from across Australia and all forms of fine art, from bark paintings and traditional weaving to digital works and sculpture.

This year, the overall winner will be awarded $100,000, aligning best gong with first prize in the annual Archibald Awards.

It’s a recognition that curator and Arabana, Mualgal and Wuthathi wife Rebekah Raymond is “over the moon” that the artists involved are being paid.

“I find [the increased prize money] really shows a commitment to celebrating these artists,” she said.

“It demonstrates an understanding that the vibrancy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art practice is on a global scale and the prize pool must respect and reflect that.”

The winners will be announced at a gala event in Darwin on Friday evening.

Six other winners in each category will take home $15,000, an amount tripled this year by longtime award sponsor Telstra.

The $190,000 total is the largest for an art award in Australia.

Dozens of finalists from hundreds of entries – and seven winners

The winners will be announced at a gala event in Darwin on Friday night to coincide with the opening of the two-week Darwin Festival.

A three-person jury narrowed down more than 200 entries to 63 finalists who were installed together for the annual – free – Blockbuster exhibition at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT).

A woman stands in a dimly lit gallery surrounded by blurred, colorful artworks installed
Ms. Raymond and two other judges selected seven winners from 63 finalists.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

“Broaden Practices, Push Boundaries”

Among the finalists, a winner will be selected for the overall award as well as six categories including:

  • General Prize for Painting
  • Bark painting price
  • Works on Paper Award
  • Wandjuk Marika 3D price
  • multimedia award
  • Emerging Artist Award

In its 38th year, NATSIAA has celebrated some of the biggest names and most influential figures in the art world, from Djambawa Marawili and Betty Muffler to Vincent Namatjira and Kaylene Whiskey.

While the stories and techniques behind some of the bark painting, weaving and carving are ancient and traditional, Ms Raymond said it’s a mistake to think that only the younger artists are experimenting and innovating.

“There have been amazing innovations in bark painting, especially by older ladies [from north east Arnhem Land],” She said.

“These are contemporary works – they continue art that has always been there, but they expand practices, they push boundaries.

Artist Dhambit Munungurr sits smiling in her wheelchair, hands raised in celebration.
Former bark painting champion Dhambit Munungurr is among the older Yirrkala ladies experimenting with new color palettes.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

Seen online winning People’s Choice Award

This year’s exhibition will be accessible online again, which has been the case since the first year of the pandemic.

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