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Toi Art ‘a game changer’ for New Zealand arts

Artist Ani O’Neill, one of the Pacific Sisters, leads the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern into the Toi Art at Te Papa. Photo Kate Whitley, Te Papa.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern officially opened Te Papa’s $8.4 million Toi Art gallery last week, with a great reception.


Wearing spectacular hand-crafted outfits, Auckland artist collective the Pacific Sisters led Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern into ‘Toi Art’, Te Papa’s new gallery, for the official opening on Friday.

The Prime Minister told the gathering of artists and the arts community that she looked forward to a time when artists did not need to justify the role they play in society.

“For the artists, for the arts community and those that work around you in that ecosystem… your work isn’t about building tolerance, because we are more than a tolerant society, we’re a society that should celebrate who we are, that should be open to challenge, that should be open to the questioning of our conscience that only happens sometimes through the lens of an artist,” Jacinda Ardern said.

She paid tribute to Te Papa Head of Art Charlotte Davy, saying, “I know you have put your heart and soul into this project, and I thank you for taking Te Papa to its next place, on behalf of New Zealand.”

The new $8.4 million Toi Art gallery provides 3,980m2 of space across two floors and gives art an additional 35 percent more space in our national museum, with free entry.

Click here to listen to The Big Idea’s Mark Amery in conversation with Lynn Freeman and Mary-Jane Duffy on RNZ’s Standing Room Only giving an assessment of the new space.

A spectacular new project by leading contemporary artist Michael Parekowhai, called Détour, features in the huge double-height entry gallery.  

There are also two major retrospective shows, Pacific Sisters: Fashion Activists and Lisa Walker: I want to go to my bedroom but I can’t be bothered, and two exhibitions showcasing the national art collection, alongside nine new artworks and installations.

Beloved works from the national collection are on show, including paintings by C.F. Goldie, Gottfried Lindauer, Rita Angus, Ralph Hotere, Colin McCahon, Gordon Walters, and Robyn Kahukiwa.

Charlotte Davy, Te Papa Head of Art, says the new gallery offers new opportunities. “Toi Art is a game changer for art in New Zealand, with the huge new spaces offering incredible opportunities to showcase art from Aotearoa, from the Pacific, and from the world.”

Exhibitions opening in Toi Art include:

  • Détour - a seminal new installation from Michael Parekowhai that challenges art conventions.
  • Pacific Sisters: Fashion Activists – a celebration of mana wāhine, indigenous identities, and the role this collective has played over the past 26 years. Ani O’Neil, Rosanna Raymond, Lisa Reihana, Suzanne Tamaki, Feeonaa Wall, Jaunnie ‘Ilolahia, Selina Haami and Henry Taripo.
  • Lisa Walker: I want to go to my bedroom but I can’t be bothered – the 30-year evolution of world-renowned New Zealand jeweller Lisa Walker.
  • Kaleidoscope: Abstract Aotearoa – an exploration of colour, shape and pattern in New Zealand and the Pacific, featuring a new immersive art work by Tiffany Singh.
  • Tūrangawaewae: Art and New Zealand – through Te Papa’s extensive collection of New Zealand painting, sculpture, and photography, explore questions of art, identity, and cross-cultural exchange.
  • Toi Art will also open with new works by contemporary artists from around the country – including Helen Calder, Lonnie Hutchison, Janet Lilo, Jeena Shin, Tiffany Singh, Ngataihauru Taepa and Sopolemalama Filipe Tohi.

Written by

Karyn Tattersfield

20 Mar 2018

I believe the arts are vital to building our community, and I am fascinated by what can be achieved with creativity - with a bit of process thrown into the mix. I love supporting The Big Idea and New Zealand's community of artists with great content to fast-forward their mission.