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First Look: NZ Artwork At Venice Biennale 2024

18 Apr 2024

A brand new artwork from a leading Aotearoa creative and some hugely significant ngā toi Māori has just been unveiled to the world - see what visitors of the world's biggest art show are about to experience.

We've known the artists for a while - but now we get to see which of their incredible works are being shown to the world.

The 60th Venice Biennale is due to open this weekend (20 April), giving artists from all over the globe the chance to take part in the biggest arts show on the planet.

While New Zealand's run of housing a national exhibit is broken for the 2024 edition, eight Māori artists - through eight different artwork - are still involved in the International Exhibition, Foreigners Everywhere, which runs through until November. 

The Ngā toi Māori artists involved span literal generations - from respected Kaumātua Selwyn Wilson (Ngāti Manu, Ngāti Hine), Sandy Adsett (Ngāti Pahauwera) and Fred Graham (Ngāti Koroki Kahukura, Tainui) to the next wave of powerhouse Māori creatives Brett Graham (Ngāti Koroki Kahukura, Tainui) and Mataaho Collective (Te Atiawa ki Whakarongotai, Ngāti Toa Rangātira, Ngāti Awa, Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāti Pūkeko, Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāi Te Rangi, Rangitāne ki Wairarapa).

Adsett's kōwhaiwhai painting Waipuna and the late Wilson's 1948 portrait Study of a head are on display in the Giardini’s Central pavilion, while the father-and-son Grahams are both showing work at the Arsenale’s Corderie venue - Brett with a brand new sculpture work titled Wasteland and Fred showing a trio of his carvings and one oil painting selection from the 1960s and 70s. 

Mataaho Collective's immersive installation Takapau will certainly leave an impression - the jaw-dropping work will be the first thing visitors will encounter when they enter the Corderie.

“The Collective’s largest-ever work was commissioned for their first exhibition at Te Papa in 2022 curated by Dr Nina Tonga, and I’m thrilled that it will be showcased internationally, strengthening the legacy of New Zealand’s offering at Venice,” states Charlotte Davy, Te Papa Head of Art.

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Fred Graham, Whiti Te Rā (1966). Photo: Ben Stewart.

Adsett, Graham and Wilson's offerings have been lent from Auckland Art Gallery's collection. Senior Curator Māori Art Nathan Pōhio notes “It's significant that Māori artists are included within the context of Stranieri Ovunque - Foreigners Everywhere. Artists of Te Ao Māori (the Māori world), placed within the context of their global peers is becoming a less rare occasion. This is great considering what Māori art has to offer the world."

Creative New Zealand’s Amanda Hereaka outlines “It’s extraordinary to have such a range of artists at the international exhibition this year. The variety of work, the mediums and perspectives being shared, means the art of Aotearoa is being shown through the lens of multiple generations – and this is such an incredible way for the world to see the whakaaro and many stages of ngā toi Māori."

In addition to the participating international exhibition artists, New Zealand’s Areez Katki, Caitlin Devoy, Elisapeta Hinemoa Heta (Ngātiwai, Ngāpuhi, Waikato Tainui, Sāmoan, Tokelauan), Mizuho Nishioka, and Robert Jahnke (Ngāi Taharoa, Te Whānau a Iritekura, Te Whānau a Rakairoa o Ngāti Porou) are also showing work in Venice as part of presentations that run parallel to La Biennale Arte.

NZ Artworks at Stranieri Ovunque - Foreigners Everywhere

Brett Graham, Wasteland (2023), Steel, found wagon wheels, macrocarpa wood, paint.

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Fred Graham, Tamariki a Tangaroa (1970), mahogany wood; Maui Steals the Sun (1971), mahogany wood; Tinirau and the Whale (1971), mahogany wood; Whiti Te Rā (1966), oil stick on board.

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Selwyn Wilson, Study of a head (1948), oil on board.

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Sandy Adsett, Waipuna, (1978), Acrylic oil on board.

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Mataaho Collective, Takapau (2022), Polyester hi-viz tie-downs (6km), stainless steel buckles, 480 rachets and 960 j-hooks

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All photos by Ben Stewart.