Kat Rae Wins Prestigious 2024 Napier Waller Art Prize

The Australian War Memorial is proud to announce that Kat Rae, who served in the Australian Army for 20 years before becoming a full-time artist in 2019, has won the 2024 Napier Waller Art Prize with a thought-provoking installation.

Her winning artwork, Deathmin, is comprised of stacked paper, vinyl, plastic, leather and metal representing the “stack of post-death admin” the artist inherited after her veteran husband Andrew suicided in 2017. Ms Rae took inspiration from her late husband’s experience with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and her own experiences with the Inspector General ADF and the Royal Commission into Veteran Suicide when creating the work.

“Deathmin is a counter-monument to the strong, upright imagery often conveyed in the Australian War Memorial. At my height and Andrew’s weight, Deathmin embodies the burden placed on veterans and their families. It asks bureaucratic institutions to care for the people they say they will,” Ms Rae said in her artist statement.

The work was selected from a shortlist of 17 highly commended entries, now on display at Australian Parliament House. Rae receives a $15,000 cash prize and her artwork will be added to the Memorial’s National Collection.

Held biennially, the Napier Waller Art Prize is open to all current and former service personnel in the Australian Defence Force.

Australian War Memorial Director Matt Anderson said it was a privilege for the Memorial to provide this opportunity for those who serve or have served in the defence of our nation to express their experiences through art and share them with the wider Australian community.

“We are thrilled with the level of engagement and enthusiasm for the Napier Waller Art Prize – from the number of submissions received, through to the calibre of the finalists,” Mr Anderson said.

“The judging panel was impressed by all the highly commended works, and decided to award the prize to Kat Rae, whose work is exceptionally powerful and challenging.”

Head of Art at the Australian War Memorial, Laura Webster, said: “The depth and breadth of the entries show how art as a means of exploring experiences and ideas can be impactful and thought-provoking. Each year this provides the judges with the challenge of choosing the winner.”

Of this year’s winning work, Deathmin, the judges stated: “This sculpture is a powerful evocation of the burden carried by so many families after the death by suicide of current or former service personnel. The work is powerful, contemporary and layered with multiple codes: the artist presents us with a stack of the paperwork generated before and after her husband Andrew’s death. At her height and his weight, Deathmin embodies the challenges attested to at the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide. This is a vital contribution to public discourse at a time when the nation is grappling with the urgent need to do better; that no one who serves this nation experiences what Andrew and Kathryn went through. We thank Kathryn for her courage and generosity in sharing her story, and congratulate her on the realisation of this finely balanced and complex work.”

An exhibition featuring the 17 highly commended works is being held at Australian Parliament House until 13 October. An accompanying online exhibition featuring 29 short-listed works, including the 17 highly commended entries, can be viewed on the Memorial’s website.

All 29 short-listed works are eligible for the People’s Choice Award, which has a cash prize of $5,000. Voting for the People’s Choice will continue via the website until the exhibition closes on 13 October 2024.

Note: This exhibition contains war related material, including references to suicide, confronting language and images which some people may find challenging and disturbing. The views and statements provided by the artists are theirs alone. Viewer discretion is recommended.

/Public Release. View in full here.