History of NZ at Venice

New Zealand has exhibited at the Venice Biennale since 2001. Previous artists were:

  • Bill Culbert (2013)
  • Michael Parekowhai (2011)
  • Judy Millar and Francis Upritchard (2009)
  • et al. (2005)
  • Michael Stevenson (2003)
  • Peter Robinson and Jacqueline Fraser (2001)

For all of them, it has increased their profiles nationally and internationally and led to greater opportunities.

2013 Bill Culbert Front Door Out Back

Image 5 Bill Culbert Level

Bill Culbert, Level, 2013, photo: Jennifer French

Since the 1960s, Bill Culbert has explored the optics, phenomenology, and semiology of light, particularly electric light. His installations in La Pietà were made from fluorescent tubes and recycled domestic objects. In Daylight Flotsam Venice, glowing fluorescent tubes and coloured plastic bottles were dispersed evenly across the floor, suggesting both purity and pollution. This work and Drop were acquired by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and Bebop by Christchurch Art Gallery. / Commissioner: Jenny Harper. Deputy Commissioner: Heather Galbraith. Curator: Justin Paton.

2011 Michael Parekowhai On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer

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Michael Parekowhai, Chapman’s Homer, 2011, photo: Michael Hall

Michael Parekowhai’s exhibition centered on He Korero Purakau mo te Awanui o Te Motu: Story of a New Zealand River, a red grand piano carved in traditional Maori style, which was played throughout the show. It was accompanied by two life-size bronze sculptures of bulls standing and reclining on grand pianos; Officer Taumaha, a security-guard sculpture; and Constitution Hill, two small bronzes of olive-tree saplings. The work toured to the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris, Christchurch Art Gallery, and Te Papa, who acquired the carved piano. / Commissioner: Jenny Harper.

2009 Judy Millar Giraffe-Bottle-Gun and Francis Upritchard Save Yourself

Judy Millar placed massive canvases of photo-enlarged brushstrokes (on shaped and sculptural supports) in conversation with the architecture of La Maddalena, Venice’s only circular church. In the period rooms of the Palazzo Mangilli-Valmarana, Francis Upritchard arranged Lilliputian figurines on tables, suggesting psychedelic imaginary landscapes. Both shows were later re-presented at Te Papa. / Commissioner: Jenny Harper. Deputy Commissioner: Heather Galbraith. Judy Millar’s Curator: Leonard Emmerling. Frances Upritchard’s Curators: Heather Galbraith and Francesco Manacorda.


Judy Millar, Giraffe-Bottle-Gun, 2009


Francis Upritchard, Save Yourself, 2009


There was no official New Zealand show, however there were two self-initiated projects. Brett Graham and Rachael Rakena’s Aniwaniwa was a Biennale collateral event. Housed in an ancient salt warehouse, the project offered submersion as a metaphor for cultural loss. The book Speculation showcased work by thirty New Zealand artists selected by eight curators. Copies were distributed during the vernissage.

2005 et al. the fundamental practice

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et al., the fundamental practice, 2005

Presented at La Pietà, et al.’s the fundamental practice explored ideological systems—religious, scientific, military, and political. Computer-generated voices articulated extremist texts from within crudely constructed APUs (autonomous purification units) resembling outhouses or sentry boxes. The project was rethought for the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, and Artspace, Auckland. Et al. went on to present altruistic studies in Art Unlimited at Art Basel in 2008. / Commissioner: Gregory Burke. Curator: Natasha Conland.

2003 Michael Stevenson This Is the Trekka


Michael Stevenson, This is the Trekka, 2003

Michael Stevenson investigated New Zealand’s attempt to create its own car industry in the 1960s and 1970s, which involved trade with communist Czechoslovakia at the height of the Cold War. Stevenson’s exhibition at La Maddalena teased out the idiosyncrasies of this particular story and paradoxes of globalisation generally. This Is the Trekka was acquired by Te Papa and shown at City Gallery Wellington in 2005. / Commissioner: Jenny Gibbs. Curators: Boris Kremer and Robert Leonard.

2001 Peter Robinson and Jacqueline Fraser Bi-Polar

Two artists were exhibited at the Museo di Sant’ Apollonia. The sleek sculptures and digital prints of Peter Robinson’s Divine Comedy were based on concepts of existence and nothingness drawn from various sources, including Dante and Stephen Hawking. In Jacqueline Fraser’s A Demure Portrait of the Artist Strip Searched, a fabric maze housed female figures drawn in wire. The work grappled with themes of cultural dislocation. It was the first in a trilogy of Fraser installations presented that year, the others being shown at the Yokohama Triennale and the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York. Both artists’ works were later shown at City Gallery Wellington and Fraser’s Demure Portrait was acquired by Te Papa. / Commissioner: Jenny Gibbs. Curator: Gregory Burke.

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Peter Robinson, Divine Comedy, 2001


Jacqueline Fraser, A Demure Portrait of the Artist Strip Searched, 2001