Auckland artist Logan Moffat is the youngest person to win the Adam Portraiture Award.

Moffat, a 21-year-old who graduated with a bachelor of fine arts (hons) from Elam School of Fine Arts in 2017, was last night named the winner of the $20,000 top prize becoming the youngest person in the 20-year history of the nationwide award to win first prize.

His painting was selected from 300 entries which international judge Angus Trumble, director of the National Portrait Gallery of Australia, whittled down to 50 finalists. Moffat's Elam features two of his fellow third-year students, Jayden Plank and Harry Telfer, and was described by Trumble as a rumination upon the creative process.

"I was impressed by the combination of affection and ennui, of clutter and spaciousness, of humour and seriousness that animate the work. The scale is handsome. The palette is high-keyed and generous; and the painting also belongs to the long tradition in the academy arising from art students — surely friends — together and separately dreaming big dreams."


Auckland-based Moffat has been making art since he was at primary school, saying he loved the creativity of it all and experimenting with different mediums. Aged just 17, he entered the Adam Portraiture Award for the first time and was "blown away" when one of his paintings was selected for the finalists' exhibition. In 2016, he was the second prize winner in the biennial award which is described as New Zealand's premier portrait prize.

It features painted portraits of New Zealanders by New Zealanders and aims to present a range of identities and representations.

Second-prize winner Martha Mitchell is also a third-time finalist. Of Mitchell's work, Things to do, places to be, Trumble says its unusually elongated format, tension and expectancy were impressive.

"… the combination of boy and dog companion, and the way in which both strain at the right and lower margins of the composition, as if they might topple forward and into ebullient, unstoppable action at any moment. Beyond that, the portrait is, I think, very beautifully painted and imbued with intimate family devotion."

An exhibition of the finalists is open daily at the New Zealand Portrait Gallery on the Wellington Waterfront until May 27. The public can vote for their choice to win the People's Choice Award, announced at the close of the exhibition.