Annie Pokel, Julie Catchpole and Sarah McClintock in the Suter Gallery with some of the entries in this year’s Wallace Art Awards. Photo: Charles Anderson.

Top art awards in Nelson

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For the first time, Nelsonians can see the finalists of the country’s premier contemporary art competition.

The Wallace Art Awards are now displayed in the Suter Gallery – the first time the prestigious competition has been shown outside the North Island.

The awards, founded by philanthropist James Wallace, aims to assist emerging artists by both patronage and promotion through exhibitions. The awards are worth a combined $275,000 and often give artists a launchpad for their careers.

“They have really been a platform for so many people to rise in the public eye,” says Annie Pokel, who led the project to bring the awards to the South Island. “James wants this art to be seen. Many private collectors will buy art, but no one gets to see them. “His dream is to take it to as many places as possible.”

Suter director Julie Catchpole says the awards offer a “snapshot” of what is going on in New Zealand art at the moment and hopes the dozens of works will inspire artists and the public alike.

“This is a window of what happening broadly in contemporary New Zealand art.”

“The entries range from painting sculpture and mixed media to multimedia works.”

Suter curator Sarah McClintock says the awards can help inform local creators to see how their work fits in to the large New Zealand scene and also give them the push to enter the awards themselves.

Many artists may also not have seen the final exhibition, even if they have entered them in the past.

“This is a way to show them what is happening in New Zealand right now.

“There will definitely be work that you like and probably things you don’t like too.”

The exhibition is on at the Suter Gallery until June 9 before heading to Christchurch.