Chris Parkin: The value of drawing

22:14, Apr 07 2013
Chris Parkin
BOOT CAMP: ‘‘A world without art would be oddly robotic, in my view,’’ says Chris Parkin, owner of Wellington’s Museum Hotel and founder of the Parkin Drawing Prize.

There is something about a perfectly drawn line that inspires Chris Parkin as much as the tuned motor in a fine Ducati motorcycle.

"Drawing should be every artist's boot camp; an essential return to basics, the framework for everything which follows. I've got no idea why the value of drawing was diminished but I still think it forms a sound basis for any artist."

Mr Parkin, the owner of Wellington's Museum Hotel, motorcycle and car connoisseur, property developer, former Wellington city councillor and arts patron, has taken his fascination with the drawn line one stage further.

Last year he announced that he was establishing a New Zealand drawing competition. He will fund the $20,000 prize in partnership with the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts in Wellington for an initial five-year period. The award is open to anyone who lives permanently in New Zealand or has New Zealand citizenship.

The objective of the award is to capture the spirit of invention, risk and discovery fundamental to drawing and making art. During the coming years, the winning entries will also lay the foundations for a national drawing collection.

"It's essential to offer a national award of this significance and highlight the depth and skill of drawing practice in New Zealand. Internationally, we are seeing a resurgence of interest in drawing as the basis of all visual art forms. Not only will it empower talented artists with a sense of the importance of their practice, but it will also see the establishment of a unique collection of New Zealand art through the acquisition of the winning drawings," Mr Parkin says.


The project has been greeted enthusiastically, he adds. Outside the arts community, people have told him that it is a good idea. Inside, there has also been enthusiasm, especially with the size of the prize.

"I decided on a reasonably grunty amount. Somehow 50 prizes of $50 each doesn't quite cut it," he says.

The idea for the national award came while Mr Parkin was at an exhibition in Sydney of finalists in the Dobell award for drawing.

"I realised that this country had nothing like the Dobell, and that's when I became involved. It'll be good if there is a keen interest. The competition will build up.

"It might be won by an established artist or a complete unknown, but either way, I want this award to highlight the depth of drawing practice in New Zealand.

"To me, art is the thing that really humanises us. A world without art would be oddly robotic, in my view."

His view is echoed by the academy's director, Warren Feeney. "Drawing is so fundamental to making art; gathering information, note taking, testing out possibilities and ideas, recording accurately and speculatively, a record of time passing, evident in the artist moving ink, pencil, pastel, etc, across the surface of the paper."


Submissions for the inaugural Parkin Drawing Prize close on June 15. The winning submission will be announced by Heather Galbraith, associate professor and head of the School of Fine Arts at Massey University, on July 25 at the opening of the Parkin Drawing Prize exhibition in Wellington. For further details and entry forms go to

The Dominion Post