The Fletcher Challenge Ceramics Award (1977-1998) was for many years New Zealand's most enduring art award. Certainly, it was our most internationalist visual arts award and one of the most generously sponsored. While many visual arts awards came and went during this time, this partnership between Auckland Studio Potters and Fletcher Brownbuilt and then Fletcher Challenge, has bequeathed a number of legacies.
This exhibition - an 'enquiry' into the Award - brings together almost all of the winning pots from Australia, Japan, France, New Zealand, Switzerland, the United States and the United Kingdom, which are now owned by the Fletcher Trust. Looking at contemporary accounts of annual award exhibitions, curator Grant Thompson interrogates the formation of this unique collection and the culture of the Award itself.
While Thompson tracks changes to the Award's name, from 'Brownbuilt' to 'Challenge', and 'Pottery' to 'Ceramics', he also uncovers a number of changes in the awards character and operation over its 22 years. Given the current proliferation of international contemporary art events, it is worth recalling - as Peter Gibbs wrote in 1992 - that this local event was "now an international extravaganza in which Kiwis compete on an equal footing."
One of the legacies of The Fletcher Challenge Ceramics Award is that Auckland Studio Potters were able to acquire and develop a new centre for themselves and succeeding generations of local makers. In its maturity the reputation of the Award itself was able to enhance the reputations of its founding partners and, as Thompson notes, "this model of sustained and shared commitment to excellence, whatever the outcome, is the Fletcher Challenge Ceramics Awards' cultural capital and legacy."
Objectspace wishes to acknowledge the assistance of the Auckland Studio Potters and the generosity of Manukau Institute of Technology and The Fletcher Trust in staging The Fletcher Challenge Ceramics Award: A Cultural Enquiry.