1987 Pauline Rhodes
1988 Grant Banbury
1989 Linda James
1990 Joanna Braithwaite
1991 No award this year
1992 Ruth Watson
1993 Sandra Thomson
1994 Seraphine Pick
1995 Chris Heaphy
1996 Esther Leigh
1997 Saskia Leek
1998 Jim Speers
1999 Kirsty Gregg
2000 James Cousins
2001 Kristy Gorman
2002 Marcus Moore
2003 Bekah Carran
2004 Hannah Beehre
2005 Victoria Bell
2006 Joanna Langford
2007 Robert Hood
2008 Eddie Clemens
2009 Clare Noonan
2010 Cat Auburn
2011 Georgina E Hill
2012 Laura Marsh
2013 Miranda Parkes
2014 Emma Fitts
2015 Jacquelyn Maree Greenbank
2016 Christina Read
2017 Daegan Wells
2018 Tyne Gordon
2019 Kim Lowe
2020 Annie McKenzie




Olivia Spencer Bower
by Marti Friedlander

"Olivia Spencer Bower’s death in Christchurch on 8 July 1982 while drawing to a close a richly productive artistic life, marked the beginning of a quite different contribution to the visual arts in New Zealand. Since 1987, the Olivia Spencer Bower Award is building a reputation as one of the most valuable and prestigious forms of sponsorship available to New Zealand artists.

The award is unique in this country in several ways. It was initiated and established by the artist whose name it bears, is entirely funded from the proceeds of her bequest, and is imprinted with her personality, values and concerns. Directed specifically at "emerging" painters and sculptors, the Award bypasses well-known and established practitioners, who may have already received recognition by substantial Awards or representation in major collections."

Elizabeth Hartrick "Art New Zealand" No 88/Spring 1998

Trees and tents, Totaranui

Olivia Spencer Bower was born in St Neots, Huntingdonshire (more commonly known as Cambridgeshire), United Kingdom on 13 April 1905 and died in Christchurch, New Zealand, on 8 July 1982.

Olivia, encouraged from her early years by her mother, painter Rosa Dixon, pursued a serious artistic career, throughout her life. During the nineteen-twenties and thirties, a period in which New Zealand women artists flourished, Olivia aligned herself with a circle of artists, which formed the basis for The Group and the New Zealand Artists’ Society. They were artistically progressive, critical of the limitations of art institutions and predominantly women. However, in the following decade, serious attention was systematically withdrawn from the achievements of these women, including such other significant artists as Louise Henderson, Rita Angus, Evelyn Page, Rata Lovell-Smith, Flora Scales, Lois White and Doris Lusk.

Pohutukawa, Cape Reinga

It was during that period, when she saw woman artists and their interests overlooked, that Olivia began to frame in her mind the idea of an award, initially intended to support women artists only but now open to promising male artists and sculptors.

In her later years, she gave serious consideration to these intentions, which resulted in her setting up a Charitable Foundation, the final details for which were only finalised five days before she died, in early July 1982.

Under her Will, Olivia left all her art works to the Foundation, and these have been gradually realised by the Trustees to form a capital fund. In addition, a substantial body of archival work represented by some 1000 to 2000 image pages has been established permanently at the Christchurch Art Gallery in Christchurch, which material will be available to future art students and art historians.

While the instigation for the Foundation was the perceived inequity between male and female artists, the terms of the Award do not include gender discrimination. The Award is open to both men and woman artists, but selection is made by a committee of which at least half must be female.



Self Portrait

The main provisions and purposes of the Trust Deed as set out by Olivia are:

1. The general purpose is to encourage and promote New Zealand artists and sculptors with particular emphasis on future artistic potential rather than financial need. It was Olivia’s specific objective to assist New Zealand artists and sculptors with talent so they could devote their energies, on a full time basis for a twelve month period, to painting and sculpture freed from the necessity to seek outside employment.




2. The Art Award is open to an artist or sculptor of either sex who has been resident in New Zealand for a period of not less than five years at any time. There are no age requirements.

3. No formal qualifications in art or any other discipline are prerequisites.

4. All Awards are for one calendar year. The annual value of the Award is fixed by the Trustees. This is currently $30,000, payable in monthly instalments.

5. To save on administration expenses, applications for Awards are called on a bi-annual basis. Two separate Awards are made for the succeeding two years. Example applications will be called mid 2018 for the two following calendar years 2019 and 2020.

Veranda at Claxby

6. The Award winner is free to undertake any particular artwork and is not required to submit or complete any particular projects. Olivia’s whole idea was to free up the artist or sculptor completely. She hated any humbug.