Key Points:

A collection of enormous polystyrene sculptures called Ack, by Auckland artist Peter Robinson, has won this year's biennial Walters Prize, worth $50,000.

Robinson was presented with the prize last night by French curator and judge Catherine David at a gala dinner at the Auckland Maritime Museum.

The three other finalists were Edith Amituanai, Lisa Reihana and John Reynolds. Reynolds and Robinson were also finalists in the 2006 Walters Prize, at the time Ack was first shown at Artspace in Karangahape Rd.

Ack, a play on the call of a duck, crawls through rooms and bursts through walls, with its white, finger-like "creatures" contrasted with blue accents mimicking duck bills and tails.

One critic has likened it to "being on an acid trip in a polar-bear enclosure". Herald critic T.J. McNamara, viewing the Walters exhibition at the New Gallery last month, described Ack as "an aggressive, tense piece of sculpture".

Judge Catherine David commented: "Peter's work showed a sophisticated understanding of modernist principles, applied in a critical way to produce art that could be shown in Paris or New York and not lose its resonances. Ack is multi-layered, engaging and universal. It is the work of an artist at the peak of his career."

The Walters Prize, first established in 2002 in honour of the late artist Gordon Walters, was founded in conjunction with Auckland Art Gallery by benefactors Erika and Robin Congreve, and Jenny Gibbs. Previous winners are Yvonne Todd, et al and Francis Upritchard.

Robinson, 42, of Ngai Tahu descent, is associate professor at Elam School of Fine Arts at the University of Auckland. He created controversial works in the late '90s which turned the thumbprint logo of Te Papa in Wellington into a swastika accompanied by the words "Our Place". He has exhibited abroad and represented New Zealand at the Venice Biennale in 2001.

Along with the $50,000 cash prize, he will travel to New York to exhibit at the Saatchi & Saatchi HQ. The Walters Prize exhibition continues at the New Gallery until November 23.