It has been announced that New Zealand's "Beneficiary" Artist Tao Wells has been awarded top place in this years Waikato Art awards. Tao who came to national prominence in 2010 for his controversial work about institutional abuse and media manipulation said that though he couldn’t really afford the five hundred dollars it had cost to participate in the competition, had fallen in love with the story to be told from his win. “In the five years after I had lost my job at Uni, I had been invited to do over 30 shows. Those invites pretty much stopped after 2010’s ‘The Beneficiary’s Office’, where I decided to work with poor people” says the artist. “I saw this years judge Simon Reese’s recent returning to NZ as a possible un-bias chance to be recognized and supported and I was right”.
The winning work’s $95,000 price tag and title, “untitled (Mc Can’t)” were explained in a 150 word statement required to be released with the work. Tao said:
“ Anyone can make this commodity. Bag functioning, surfaces 'no' flicked, becoming arts ‘on’. Typical protest work smacking the fingers in the cookie jar. Helping to chuckle and cheer for those with the cookies, celebrating a generation of avant-garde art, state funded as University practice. Those silent beneficiaries of welfare meant to demonstrate the ideals of education, democracy, free speech, who take the money and instead stay silent.
Peter McLeavey commenting on a similar version of this work said it was a “true, rough as guts, great New Zealand painting”, but there wasn’t a market for it, then bought the work. Supposedly a formal barrier to challenging the tenets of capitalism is being openly bought and sold in the marketplace. This artworks transparent economic investment (!), is a mechanism in sharing wealth.
Not everyone can afford this work, the price is the same as my student loan (+ 46% gallery commission).”
While Tao could not attend the awards due to personal circumstances, the awards $15,000 dollar prize was going to be put to good use says the artist, in his acceptance speech delivered by fellow contestant Kirsty Lillico;
“ I thought I'd win this. Hence this speech. Thank you. I'm still unemployed but working full time (as a parent and artist). However I need to use some/all of the money to take a private gallery that stole my work and a public gallery that broke a contract to show my work to court, in some kind salute to the rich man’s ability to pursue justice in this country. Now you are implicated. It never ends.
Beace, Luff, ha-money”