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Who Got the Gig? Your Art. Our Rooms.

Ngārongo Phillips QT Hotel Artist
Ngārongo Phillips with her artwork for a room in Gallery 4
Johnson Witehira QT Hotel Artist
Ko wai poroporo aki āki by Ngārongo Phillips
Hotels have long been the bastion of cheesy print art. Now, there’s an exception. By Emmanuella de Ruiter.


Across the road from Te Papa is another museum: one you can eat, sleep, and even shower in.  QT Wellington is an amalgamation of both art-museum and hotel — it offers visitors a chance to experience one of New Zealand’s largest privately-owned art collections from the hotel’s public spaces. From November, with the Your Art Our Rooms initiative, the art collection will extend into guest rooms giving visitors a chance to experience a total immersion in art. Mark Amery, QT staff and street artist D-Side were on the selection panel. Mark, curator and project manager for Your Art. Our Rooms, says “something rather special has grown here in Wellington… QT Wellington is an amazing place to visit and has a remarkable collection of work.” 

Johnson Witehira - QT Hotel Artist. Witehira created a unique wallpaper design.

A place alongside the famous

Earlier this year on TBI, QT Wellington called for artists to make submissions to their Your Art Our Rooms initiative, giving emerging artists the rare opportunity to display their work alongside those by well-known artists including Dick Frizzell, Seraphine Pick and Liz Maw. QT Wellington General Manager Garth Solly says, “it’s a cultural playground built on a wonderfully eccentric, largely national, art collection. The hotel has a philosophy that thrives on actively supporting the local creative scene, which is why it’s so important to give an opportunity for artists to be a part of our history.”

The new art is being displayed in what QT Wellington is calling Gallery 4: it includes 25 guest rooms containing original artwork by 19 different artists. Mark says, “the original plan was for artists to come up with ideas for a single wall behind the bedhead but what has actually happened has been delightful… we've really been able to push the boundaries and there’s quite a lot of experimenting going on — the artists are working over different surfaces and using a range of different media. The result will certainly surprise people!”

Ko wai poroporo aki āki by Ngārongo Phillips

Balloons and memento mori

Ngārongo Phillips is one artist who was chosen to make artwork for QT Wellington. Her sculptural pieces are made up of balloons that she has woven into floral-esque bouquets. Flowers are given in times of both celebration and mourning; as a gift or a token of sympathy. Ngārongo explains that her inspiration for the work came from very personal sources, but she hopes it will be accessible to many through the themes surrounding life and death. 

“When my auntie Miriama Evans passed away I began to think about the book she and my other auntie, Ranui Ngarimu, wrote called The Eternal Thread: The Art of Māori Weaving Te Aho Mutunga Kore. I became aware that these strong, powerful, courageous women who were making the most of their talents are part of my blood. I wanted to make artwork that honors my tīpuna (ancestors) and makes them proud. A week or two after my Auntie’s tangi I sat down and I started to twist and weave my balloons — I spent four days in trance trying to figure out how I could make it perfect.”

Similar to flowers, the balloons in Ngārongo’s work also wilt and wither over time; they are temporary and fleeting. Her work is evocative of memento mori, a style of still-life painting originating in the 17th Century, reminding the viewer of their mortality, of the shortness or fragility of life, and to not take it for granted. She will be providing frequent “balloon bouquets” for the hotel to display, but will also have her work Ko wai poroporo aki āki displayed in Gallery 4 as a photograph.

Ngārongo Phillips with her artwork for a room in Gallery 4

Artwork making personal connections

Ngārongo will be providing a performance piece on the opening night. She says, “I'm so pumped! I work in hospitality, so I like interaction with customers and making sure they get the best experience they can. Performance and hospitality go hand-in-hand. I have an idea to make corsages, enough for everyone, so they can become part of the performance of life and death…”

Ngārongo is ecstatic to be part of the Your Art Our Rooms initiative and sees it as a great opportunity to try to make art that can be appreciated and understood by anyone who stays in the room. “The main thing is to always be listening to people. Gather information and reinterpret it with your own eyes so it makes sense to people who maybe couldn't understand it before. You need to make things easily accessible for the masses. Art’s supposed to make a connection and relieve someone else's struggles or pain for a second or two.”

Gallery 4 opens Thursday 1st November and rooms are bookable now for stays from Friday 2nd November 2018.

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Written by

Emanuella de Ruiter

15 Oct 2018

Emanuella is a documentary photographer and writer based in Ōtautahi Christchurch. She enjoys writing about people and their unique life experiences — especially when those experiences involve the arts!