Mataaho Collective and Archie Moore Win Golden Lions
May 3, 2024
Mataaho Collective and Archie Moore Win Golden Lions
May 3, 2024

Mataaho Collective scoops Golden Lion at Venice Biennale in a huge weekend for art from Oceania

Written by: Mark Amery for RNZ

Aotearoa New Zealand has won one of the world’s most prestigious art prizes. 

Mataaho collective have been awarded the Golden Lion by a jury at the 60th Venice Biennale for their large scale work in the main curated exhibition. 

Held every two years, the Biennale is dubbed the Olympics of the art world and Mataaho collective’s achievement, as Creative New Zealand’s Amanda Hereaka describes, is “the equivalent of winning a gold medal.”

Three of the four members of Mataho collective after the ceremony in Venice: Sarah Hudson, Terri Te Tau and Erena Baker Photo: Jess Waugh

The Mataaho collective comprises four Māori women - Bridget Reweti, Erena Baker, Sarah Hudson, and Terri Te Tau. Their large-scale work Takapau is an installation made of woven and latticed polyester hi-vis tie-downs and was recently shown at Te Papa. 

It opens the Arsenale section of the Biennale and serves as waharoa or gateway to the rest of the show. The group exhibition Stranieri Ovunque, Foreigners Everywhere, has been curated by the Biennale’s artistic director Brazilian Adriano Pedrosa, and features 331 artists. Eight Māori artists will feature alongside Mataaho, Sandy Adsett, Brett Graham, Fred Graham, and the late Selwyn Te Ngareatua Wilson.

“Referring to matrilinear traditions of textiles with its womb-like cradle, the installation is both a cosmology and a shelter,” the jury said in their citation for the prize, which was read by the jury president Julia Bryan-Wilson.

“Its impressive scale is a feat of engineering that was only made possible by the collective strength and creativity of the group.”

“It’s just immense, I’m almost speechless,” says Māori curator Matariki Williams, speaking to Culture 101 not long after the award announcement. 

“You can imagine the huge mix of emotions people are feeling, lots of pride. Incredible excitement.”

Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Paul Goldsmith congratulated the collective.

"Congratulations to the Mataaho Collective for winning one of the world's most prestigious art prizes at the Venice Biennale.

“It is good to see New Zealand artists excelling internationally, and showcasing the best of our art and culture to the world.

“This win is a glowing endorsement of the brilliant work of the Mataaho collective and shows, again, our artists are world leaders.”

But it’s not just Aotearoa New Zealand celebrating. It’s a significant weekend for art in Oceania and Indigenous artists worldwide. The other major award at Venice, The Golden Lion for National Pavilion, has been awarded to Australia’s representative at the Biennale, Archie Moore. It is the first time Australia has won this award.  

Archie Moore’s work traces his family history,  inscribing on the walls in chalk thousands of names. In the centre of the installation are piles of coronial reports with names redacted from the official inquests into hundreds of Indigenous deaths in Australian state care.