And the NATSIAA winners are…

The 2020 standouts at Australia’s most prestigious Indigenous prize.

Words: Camilla Wagstaff

Senior Wangkajunga and Walmajarri man Ngarralja Tommy May has taken out the top prize at the 2020 Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAA), for his work Wirrkanja (2020). Mr May said that he is so proud of his win this year, describing it as “a long time coming … I’ve been trying all my life, all the time second, fourth, last, sometimes nothing. But I got it now, today. My days, my time this year, I’m the winner. At last.”

Mr May’s entry was praised by this year’s judging panel: Injalak Arts director Donna Nadjamerrek, Darwin-based visual artist Karen Mills, and curator of Araluen Arts Centre, Stephen Williamson. MAGNT director Marcus Schutenko described the win as a “well deserved accolade for his extraordinary work”.

The judges selected an additional 6 prize winners from 65 exceptional finalist works:

Telstra Bark Painting Award: Marrnyula Munungurr

Telstra General Painting Award: Adrian Jangala Robertson

Telstra Works on Paper Award: Iluwanti Ken

Wandjuk Marika 3D Memorial Award: Jenna Lee

Telstra Multimedia Award: Siena Mayutu Wurmarri Stubbs,

Telstra Emerging Artist Award: Cecilia Umbagai

NATSIAA’s new exhibition mode

“We’re bringing you this in a year that’s far from normal,” noted Telstra CEO Andy Penn, who joined the winner’s announcement via video link from his home in Melbourne due to COVID-19 lockdowns. Indeed, as a result of the global health crisis, the physical show in Darwin this year is accompanied by a virtual space accessible online, where visitors who can’t make it to the Top End will be able to move through and experience high resolution, quality interactions with the finalist exhibition. There will also be a suite of resources available on each artist and their work.

Collecting NATSIAA works

The NATSIAA provides an opportunity to collect standout works from First Nations practitioners across the country. “From commissions, to acquisitions [at major institutions] to important exhibitions, you see so many opportunities stem from an artist announcing themselves at NATSIAA,” notes MAGNT Curator of Aboriginal Art Luke Scholes. “That might be an emerging artist announcing themselves for the first time, or it might be an established artist showing a recent development in their work. For this reason, NATSIAA remains highly relevant to collectors.”

All the works in the exhibition are available for sale, with contact details of the artist’s Art Centre available as part of the show’s online presence. MAGNT takes the same position as Art Collector on the purchase of Indigenous Art. “Our acquisitions policy is that we will always acquire work through Art centres or galleries that represent them. Provenance is everything in collecting art and buying through Art Centres is really about knowing where your money goes, and who the primary beneficiary of your purchase is. When you purchase through an Art Centre, you can always be assured that the artist’s interests are front of mind.”

View the full exhibition on the MAGNT website here. 

Image: Winning artist Ngarralja Tommy May. Photo: Damian Kelly


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