History of NZ at Venice
New Zealand has exhibited at the Venice Biennale since 2001. New Zealand artists who have exhibited at the Biennale are:
- Peter Robinson and Jacqueline Fraser (2001)
- Michael Stevenson (2003)
- et al. (2005)
- Judy Millar and Francis Upritchard (2009)
- Michael Parekowhai (2011)
For all of these New Zealand artists, the Biennale has led to greater national and international profile and opportunities.
The Venice Biennale features exhibitions by more than 80 countries and attracts over 30,000 key international curators, critics,
collectors and artists to the three-day Vernissage (preview) period
alone. In 2011, 440,000 visitors attended the six-month exhibition. New Zealand's presence at the Biennale is crucial to engaging audiences, curators, writers and collectors with the contemporary New Zealand art scene.
Read more about the history of the Biennale on the Venice Biennale Website.
On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer, Michael Parekowhai’s sculptural installation, included one intricately-carved red Steinway concert grand piano and two concert grands fabricated in bronze supporting two cast bronze bulls. On one piano, a full-size bull rested on the closed lid with its massive body suggesting the folding forms of landscape. On the other piano, the bull offered an eye-to-eye challenge for anyone prepared to take a seat at the keyboard. The installation also featured a figure from the Kapa Haka series (Officer Taumaha) and two small bronze olive tree saplings (Constitution Hill). The carved piano was played through the exhibition. The work toured to Paris, Christchurch and Wellington following the Biennale.
Michael Parekowhai said of the work: “While the objects in On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer are important, the real meaning of the work will come through the music. Just as my work Ten Guitars was not about the instruments themselves but about the way they brought people together, performance is central to understanding On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer because music fills a space like no object can.” He Korero Purakau mo te Awanui o Te Motu: story of a New Zealand river , the ornately-carved grand piano which formed the
centrepiece of On First looking into
Chapman’s Homer, is now in the collection of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.
2009: Judy Millar and Francis Upritchard
New Zealand’s participation in 2009 was a critical and popular success with an unprecedented number of visitors passing through the 2009 exhibitions. 114,000 visitors viewed Judy Millar’s installation, Giraffe-Bottle-Gun, curated by Leonhard Emmerling and Francis Upritchard’s installation, Save Yourself, curated by Heather Galbraith and Francesco Manacorda. Both works returned home to New Zealand in February 2010 for a four month exhibition at Te Papa.
Judy Millar "took over" the interior of the Neo-Classical structure La Maddalena, the only circular church in Venice. The largest piece in Millar's exhibition, sited in the centre of the church, was a painting in the round, bulging and intruding into the viewer's space. In other parts of the church oddly shaped canvases leant against the walls, stretching their elongated necks to the ceiling, making obvious their temporary placement in Venice and their provisional relationship with this place of worship and belief.
The generous and unusual physical dimensions of La Maddalena allowed for a full play of spatial disruptions, dislocations and inversions. A large visceral image surged and looped around the circular space, channeling the path of the viewer and establishing views and vistas around and across the architectural space. Tensions between inside and outside, large and small and real and illusionistic space unfolded.
The exhibition Giraffe-Bottle-Gun instigated a lively dispute with the venue in which it intrudes, between the great history of Venetian painting and this contemporary practice.
Since the Biennale in 2009, Judy Millar has continued to exhibit internationally, and her work in collections includes Auckland Art Gallery, Te Papa, Christchurch Art Gallery, Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Kunstmuseum St Gallen, CAP Art, Dublin. Judy Millar is also represented in numerous international private collections.
"I want to create a visionary landscape, which refers to the hallucinatory works of the medieval painters Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Brueghel, and simultaneously draws on the utopian rhetoric of post-sixties counterculture, high modernist futurism and the warped dreams of survivalists, millenarians and social exiles." Francis Upritchard
The installation Save Yourself by Francis Upritchard included clusters of figures and structures spread through the faded elegance of three chambers within the Fondazione Claudio Buziol at the Palazzo Mangilli-Valmarana overlooking the Grand Canal. Each grouping occupied an imaginary landscape from an indeterminate historical period. The figures populating these fantasy scenes were detailed with a psychedelic surface and a handmade quality. They were searchers, dreamers, dancers; consumed by their acts of meditation or lost in reverie. The installation combined the antique and futuristic, making the scene both familiar and unsettling. The work explored ideas about time, hope and evolutionary change and pointed to uncertain boundaries between high and applied art as experienced through the lavish decor of the Venetian palazzo.
2007: No official Pavilion, but the show must go on
In 2007 there was no official New Zealand presentation at Venice. Instead, Creative New Zealand undertook a study of international visual arts events to assist them in strategising for the future. There were two self-initiated New Zealand projects at the 52nd La Biennale di Venezia: the book, Speculation, which was published by NZ Venice Project and JRP|Ringier, and featured work by 30 New Zealand artists selected by eight curators. Over 2000 copies of the book were distributed to vernissage attendees.
Aniwaniwa by Brett Graham and Rachael Rakena was selected to be featured among the Biennale’s Collateral Events section. This elegiac and commanding work melded sculptural forms with moving image and a haunting soundtrack. It was housed in an ancient salt warehouse in Dorsoduro, one of the six sestieri in Venice. Central to the work was the theme of submersion, as a metaphor for cultural loss. Locally, Aniwaniwa refers to rapids at the narrowest point of the Waikato River by the village of Horahora, where Graham’s father was born and his grandfather worked at the Horahora power station. In 1947, the town was flooded to create a hydro-electric dam downstream. Many historic sites significant to Graham’s hapu ‘Ngati Koroki’ were lost forever. In Aniwaniwa, water as the consumer of histories becomes the vehicle by which histories are retold. In many of Rachael Rakena’s works Māori identity is explored as being in a state of flux, like the borders of a river are constantly being redefined. Likewise, water is churned into electricity; electricity is transformed into light. Light makes such a work possible, and in a sense returns to a new generation memories of a town now consumed by water.
2005 et al.
the fundamental practice
In 2005 the collective et al. staged their richly complex installation the fundamental practice at La Pietà, iterations of which were subsequently shown at the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane and Artspace, Auckland. the fundamental practice continued a process of research and investigation, using techniques of procedure and presentation from other ideological systems – scientific, military, political, revolutionary. The installation suggested a control-room for a diabolical plan, performing texts, provoking and alluding to the ideologies we are conditioned by and their structures of delivery. Subsequent to et al.’s project at Venice, they were selected to mount altruistic studies within the prestigious Art Unlimited programme at Art 39 Basel 2008.
2003: Michael Stevenson
This is the Trekka
In 2003 Berlin-based New Zealand artist Michael Stevenson’s project This is the Trekka took up residence in La Maddalena church in Cannaregio (the same venue Judy Millar’s project Giraffe-Bottle-Gun occupied in 2009) to critical acclaim. In his work, Stevenson drew attention to particular historical moments by reproducing ‘artefacts’ from a series of historical case studies. The Trekka is New Zealand’s only nationally-produced vehicle. It was manufactured in Onehunga, Auckland in the late 1960s and early 1970s, with a chassis and motor imported from Czechoslovakia.
This is the Trekka investigated an attempt by New Zealand to create its own car industry, and the economic links between New Zealand and Czechoslovakia at the height of the Cold War. The exhibition used the visual language of a trade show at the time of the Trekka’s production, and included seemingly disparate components which collectively created a story about trade and nationalism. It included a wall made of New Zealand produced butter boxes and the Moniac – an historical device for recording the forces and checks of a nation’s economy through the passage of water through a complex series of valves and gates.
This is the Trekka was acquired by the Te Papa and was shown in Small World Big Town: Contemporary Art from Te Papa at City Gallery Wellington Te Whare Toi in 2005.
2001: The first New Zealand Pavilion:
New Zealand first mounted an exhibition at the 49th La Biennale di Venezia in 2001. Two individual installations were exhibited at the Museo di Sant’ Apollonia, grouped under the title Bi-Polar; Jacqueline Fraser: A Demure Portrait of the Artist Strip Searched and Peter Robinson: Divine Comedy.
The title of Robinson’s exhibition came from Dante Alighieri’s book Divine Comedy. The exhibition featured a series of sleek sculptures and digital prints (utilising a binary code translation of Dante’s Inferno), based around complex concepts of existence, and drew together unlikely points of reference from quantum physics to Stephen Hawking's book A Brief History of Time.
A Demure Portrait of the Artist Strip Searched
Jacqueline Fraser’s intricate installation A Demure Portrait of the Artist Strip Searched comprised drops of Italian damask fabric which formed a maze through which visitors could explore the sculptural and text-based interventions within the maze’s interior. It was the first in a trilogy of installations that continued throughout 2001 at the Yokohama Triennale, Japan and the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York.
The two exhibitions were welcomed back to New Zealand in 2003 when they were configured for display at City Gallery Wellington Te Whare Toi. Jacqueline Fraser’s A Demure Portrait of the Artist Strip Searched is now in the collection of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and was shown in Toi Te Papa.