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2017 Venice Biennale: New Zealand’s artist and curator announced

Lisa Reihana, in Pursuit of Venus [infected] 2015, multi-channel video (still), Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of the Patrons of Auckland Art Gallery.

Lisa Reihana, in Pursuit of Venus [infected] 2015, multi-channel video (still), Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of the Patrons of Auckland Art Gallery.

The Arts Council of New Zealand Toi Aotearoa has approved and is pleased to announce Lisa Reihana as New Zealand’s artist for the 57th Venice Biennale in 2017.

Reihana’s panoramic video in Pursuit of Venus [infected] will travel to Venice. It will be presented at its immersive scale and rendered to its full resolution, with additional scenes included.  A new series of photographic works will also be commissioned.

The Arts Council is also pleased to announce Rhana Devenport as the curator for New Zealand’s presentation and Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki as a significant contributor to the project.

In Pursuit of Venus [infected] is a filmic re-imagining of the French scenic wallpaper Les Sauvages De La Mer Pacifique.

In Neoclassical France, entrepreneur Joseph Dufour used the latest printing innovations to produce Les Sauvages De La Mer Pacifique (1804), a sophisticated twenty panel scenic wallpaper. Mirroring a widespread fascination with the Pacific voyages undertaken by Captain Cook, de Bougainville and de la Perouse, its exotic themes referenced popular illustrations of that time.

Two hundred years later, Lisa Reihana has employed twenty-first century digital technologies to animate Les Sauvages De La Mer Pacifique. Enlivened with the sights and sounds of dance and cultural ceremonies, a vast video panorama is populated by a myriad of people drawn from across New Zealand and the Pacific.

Challenging historical and contemporary stereotypes, in Pursuit of Venus [infected] returns the gaze of imperialism with a speculative twist that disrupts notions of beauty, authenticity, history and myth. It is designed for multi-channel projection to create an immersive cinematic experience.

Alastair Carruthers, Commissioner for the 2017 Venice Biennale, says “in Pursuit of Venus [infected] has already captured a huge New Zealand audience and international attention with its sensuous reimagining of people, place and time.  In Venice 2017 Lisa Reihana will present a further evolution of her vast and beguiling vision, with new accompanying work.  The exhibition will be irresistible.”

Eleven high-calibre proposals were received for New Zealand’s presentation at the 2017 Venice Biennale. They were assessed by a Selection Advisory Panel, chaired by Arts Council Chairman, Dr Dick Grant.

Dr Grant says, “This will be New Zealand’s 8th official exhibition at the Venice Biennale.  A series of diverse and powerful presentations by New Zealand artists has preceded it and Creative New Zealand took a very broad view of the possibilities and form that the next presentation might take.  I congratulate the selection panel and Alastair Carruthers on this powerful decision for 2017.”

The Venice Biennale opens every two years in late May or June and runs for approximately six months. It involves more than 80 countries and attracts over 30,000 key international curators, critics, collectors and artists to the three-day Vernissage (preview) period alone. It is the world’s largest and most prestigious international contemporary art exhibition, attended by key curators, writers and collectors.

The Selection Advisory Panel for the 2017 Venice Biennale comprised: Alastair Carruthers, Commissioner 2017; Aaron Kreisler, Head, Ilam School of Fine Arts, University of Canterbury; Dr Caroline Vercoe, Senior Lecturer, Art History, Auckland University; Charlotte Huddleston, Director, St Paul St Gallery; Dayle Mace, Patron; Heather Galbraith, Associate Professor, Whiti o Rehua School of Art, Massey University and Commissioner 2015; Judy Millar, artist, Venice 2009; Leigh Melville, Head of Patrons; Michael Prentice – Arts Council; Rose Evans – Arts Council.  The panel was chaired by Arts Council Chairman Dr Dick Grant.

Creative New Zealand’s financial commitment will be $700,000 over two financial years.

For media enquiries, please contact:
Sarah Pomeroy | Senior Communications Adviser | Creative New Zealand
Mob: +64 27 677 8070 | DDI: +64 4 498 0725
Notes to editors:

New Zealand has exhibited at the Venice Biennale since 2001.  New Zealand artists who have exhibited are: Peter Robinson and Jacqueline Fraser (2001); Michael Stevenson (2003) et al. (2005); Judy Millar and Francis Upritchard (2009); Michael Parekowhai (2011), Bill Culbert (2013) and Simon Denny (2015).

The 2017 announcement follows New Zealand’s highly successful 2015 exhibition Secret Power by Simon Denny which attracted widespread national and international acclaim, and has attracted 140,000 visitors to date.

Lisa Reihana

Lisa Reihana (b 1964) completed a Masters in Design from the School of Visual Art and Design, Unitec in Auckland in 2014 and graduated with a Bachelor in Fine Arts from Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland in 1987.

Of Ngāpuhi and Ngāti Hine Ngāi Tū descent, she lives and works in Auckland.

Reihana’s work has featured in significant international exhibitions including the Museum van Loon, the Amsterdam Film + Media Arts Festival, the Samstag Museum in Toronto, the Campbelltown Arts Centre, the Havana Biennale, the Brooklyn Museum, the Liverpool Biennale, the Asia Society Museum in New York, the Noumea Biennale, the 12th Biennale of Sydney, and the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, Brisbane.
Reihana was made an Arts Laureate by the New Zealand Arts Foundation in 2014. She was shortlisted for the Signature Art Prize at the Singapore Art Museum in 2014 for in Pursuit of Venus; as well as the Double Take Anne Landa Award, Art Gallery of New South Wales in 2009 and the Walters Prize at the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki in 2008, both for Digital Marae.

Rhana Devenport 

Rhana Devenport is director of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, she has curated solo projects with artists Nalini Malani, Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen, Zhang Peili, Jin Jiangbo, Lee Mingwei, Judith Wright, Peter Robinson, Alex Monteith and Lisa Reihana.

Devenport was director of Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in New Plymouth, New Zealand (2006-2013) where she led the Len Lye Centre museum redevelopment project, securing the architectural appointment and design, funding and project support.

She has held senior positions with the Biennale of Sydney (2005-2006), Artspace NZ (2005) and the Sydney Festival (2004) and was Senior Project Officer for the Asia Pacific Triennial with the Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Australia (1994-2004).