Icon Awards 2018: Five new Icon award recipients announced — 08.05.18

Exceptional New Zealand artists Billy Apple, Fred Graham, Bill Manhire, Maualaivao Albert Wendt and Dame Gillian Karawe Whitehead have been awarded the Arts Foundation of New Zealand's highest honour, the Arts Foundation of New Zealand Icon Award – Whakamana Hiranga.

The recipients received their awards from the Governor General, Her Excellency The Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy at a prestigious ceremony at Government House, Wellington this evening. 

The artists were awarded for their significant contributions to the arts and to the lives of New Zealanders.

Arts Foundation Chair, Garth Gallaway, said "There are some artists who have a profound impact on the nation. The Icon Awards celebrates the achievements of those artists so that all New Zealanders can acknowledge our living greats and to learn more about their work and contributions".

The 2018 recipients were selected by Arts Foundation Trustees and Governors.

The recipients join a living circle of twenty artists celebrated as Icons and receive a medallion and pin designed by stone sculptor, John Edgar. The artist has the pin forever, while the medallion is presented to a successor at a future ceremony.

In a moving part of the ceremony, the medallions of Sir Ian Athfield (architect), Jack Body (composer), Marti Friedlander (photographer), Peter Godfrey (musician) and Dr Cliff Whiting (artist, heritage, advocate, teacher) were presented to the 2018 recipients by a family member representing the previous holder of the medallion.

Thirty-eight Icons have been honoured with the award. Previously awarded recipients include Janet Frame, Margaret Mahy, Ralph Hotere and Sir Peter Jackson.

About the 2018 Icon Award Recipients

Billy Apple ONZM – Visual artist

In 1962 London, Billy Apple  took  the  radical  step  of  changing  his  name  in  order  to  establish  a  new  identity  as  an  art  brand.  In  this  self-branding  manoeuvre,  where  he  became  a  work-of-art,  he  removed  the  arbitrary  distinction  between  art  and  life  so  was  able  to  claim  everyday  objects  and  life  activities  as  art.  To  this  day,  Apple  draws  inspiration  from  reality  and  the  world  we  live  in and continues to exhibit in the world’s most celebrated institutions.

Fred Graham ONZM – Carver & Sculptor

Fred Graham is a world-renowned carver and inspiring teacher who has generously shared his knowledge and skills with his peers as well as with emerging artists. He is an influential figure within the contemporary Maori art movement. His sculptures are a unique fusion of Maori and European cultures, often combining traditional wood and stone with modern materials to explore sometimes controversial issues. He has many sculptures displayed in prominent public spaces in New Zealand. Te Papa Tongarewa and Parliament – as well as commissioned works in several other Pacific Rim countries.

Bill Manhire CNZM – Poet & Writer

Since his book of poems in 1972, The Elaboration, which features drawings by artist and fellow Icon, Ralph Hotere, Bill has received innumerable accolades for his innovative and diverse anthologies. Bill is also probably one of the few poets ever to reach the Antarctica.  He has been a significant figure in promoting New Zealand poetry and literature not only through his own writing but through his work as a lecturer, critic, anthologist, and broadcaster, and in his appearances at writing festivals around the world.

Maualaivao Albert Wendt ONZ CNZM – Poet & Writer

Maualaivao Albert  Wendt  has  been  writing  and  publishing  since  the  early  1960s  and  is  recognised  internationally  as  one  of  New  Zealand’s,  Samoa’s,  and  the  Pacific’s  major  novelists,  poets,  and  intellectuals.  Over  the  past  forty  years,  his  writing,  his  teaching  and  research  have  helped  change  how  Samoa,  the  Pacific,  and  New  Zealand  are  perceived.

Dame Gillian Karawe Whitehead DNZM – Composer

Dame Gillian Whitehead is one of Australasia’s most influential composers of our time,  whose steady stream of works include operas, orchestral works, choral pieces, vocal and instrumental chamber compositions, solo works, pieces involving taonga puoro and compositions including improvisation.


 About the Arts Foundation of New Zealand Icon Awards - Whakamana Hiranga

The Icon Awards are the Arts Foundation's most prestigious awards, created to honour New Zealand’s greatest artists during their lifetime. Limited to a living circle of twenty recipients, these artists have all made a significant contribution to New Zealand and to their art form.

Former Arts Foundation Trustee, Sir Hugh Kawharu, gifted the words ‘whakamana i te hiranga’ to describe the Icon Awards. The words can be interpreted as ‘to give honour at an occasion of great significance.’ Sir Hugh said that each Icon recipient shares his or her mana with fellow Icons through reciprocity, each Icon’s mana being enhanced through association with the group.

The Arts Foundation Icon Award recipients

Ian Athfield (1940 – 2015) ARCHITECT

Barbara Anderson (1926 – 2013) WRITER

Jack Body (1944-2015)  COMPOSER

Marti Friedlander (1928 – 2016) PHOTOGRAPHER

Peter Godfrey (1922 – 2017) MUSICIAN

Ralph Hotere (1931 – 2013) VISUAL ARTIST

Margaret Mahy (1936 – 2012) WRITER

Donald Munro (1913-2012) OPERA PIONEER

Arnold Manaaki Wilson (1928-2012) SCULPTOR

Dr Pakariki Harrison (1928-2008) CARVER

Alexander Grant (1925 – 2011) BALLET

Len Castle (1924-2011) POTTER

Don Peebles (1922-2010) PAINTER

Diggeress Te Kanawa (1920-2009) WEAVER

Hone Tuwhare (1922-2008) POET

Don Selwyn (1935-2007) ACTOR/DIRECTOR

Janet Frame (1924-2004) WRITER

Dr Cliff Whiting (1936 – 2017) VISUAL ARTIST




Jacqueline Fahey VISUAL ARTIST

Maurice Gee WRITER

Patricia Grace WRITER

Fred Graham SCULPTOR

Sir Peter Jackson FILMMAKER


Bill Manhire POET

Sir Donald McIntyre OPERA SINGER

Milan Mrkusich VISUAL ARTIST

Geoff Murphy FILM MAKER

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa OPERA SINGER

Greer Twiss SCULPTOR

Sir Miles Warren ARCHITECT


Albert Wendt WRITER & POET


Dame Gillian Whitehead COMPOSER