04 Oct 2011

This content is tagged as Visual arts .


Master of light invited to represent New Zealand at the 2013 Venice Biennale

Celebrated New Zealand sculptor, photographer and installation artist Bill Culbert has been invited by Creative New Zealand to present his work at the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013.

Culbert was recommended to Creative New Zealand by an external advisory panel convened by 2013 Venice Biennale Commissioner Jenny Harper.  The artist will visit the 54th biennale later this month, viewing possible venues for his presentation in 2013 and honing his ideas for the new exhibition.

‘I am delighted that Bill Culbert has accepted our invitation to go to Venice in 2013. He makes marvellous work, constantly re-investigating how light works and refreshing how we think of it.  He has lived away from New Zealand for some years, but returns regularly and continues to have a dynamic presence in this country’s visual arts. Without doubt, he is one of our leading senior artists.  Venice is a wonderful platform for us both to celebrate his individual achievements and to continue to present the richness of this country’s visual arts practice,’ Ms Harper says.

The Venice Biennale is the pre-eminent global contemporary visual arts event attracting a host of international artists, curators, critics and collectors.

Otago-born Culbert painted and worked more conceptually before beginning his experimentation with electric light in the late 1960s.  Often associated with kinetic and constructivist art, he also has a strong affinity with Marcel Duchamp and Lazlo Moholy-Nagy through his work with found objects and through a continuing exploration of ideas around light, energy, perspective, social space and politics.

Culbert has sustained a busy exhibition schedule throughout his career, with more than 100 solo exhibitions in New Zealand, England, Europe, the United States and Australia since 1960, and many more group exhibitions and major public art commissions.

 Building on the success of Michael Parekowhai's stunning current exhibition, the Arts Council is keen to make progress for 2013,” Chair Alastair Carruthers said, “It's good to be able to consider Bill’s practice as we select a new venue and to give him plenty of time to create a remarkable work.  Our patrons and other supporters can also begin planning.  New Zealand has got terrific momentum in Venice. "

Selection process

A panel was convened in late September to select the artist for 2013.  The selection panel was comprised of gallery directors and visual arts experts and included;

  • Alastair Carruthers (Chair)
  • Jenny Harper (Christchurch Art Gallery)
  •  Christina Barton (Adam Art Gallery)
  • Elizabeth Caldwell (Dunedin Public Art Gallery)
  • Heather Galbraith (Massey University)
  • Michael Houlihan (Te Papa)
  • Peter Robinson (Auckland University and 2001 Venice Biennale artist)

Prior to the selection meeting the Commissioner sought advice from the wider visual arts sector inviting them to propose names of artists and/or artist/curator teams.

The panel agreed that Culbert continues to produce fresh and interesting work in a variety of media and was exceptional in his continuing and broad interest in a range of contemporary issues.

Next steps

Creative New Zealand is delighted that the 2013 Head of the Patrons will be Dayle Mace whose contribution to the fund-raising alongside Dame Jenny Gibbs for previous biennales has been invaluable.  Mace will be assisted by Leigh Melville.

Creative New Zealand will also work closely with the Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa, on the realisation of the New Zealand exhibition in 2013.

Born in Port Chalmers, Culbert studied fine art at Canterbury University School of Art (1953-56), and in 1957 received a scholarship to study at the Royal College of Art in London, gaining a silver medal for painting.  He now works in sculpture, installation and photography, often in combination around the subject of light.  His materials include light bulbs, lampshades, fluorescent tubes, plastic bottles, wine glasses and suitcases. He travels extensively and exhibits widely in Europe, Australia and New Zealand.  He is represented in New Zealand by Sue Crockford Gallery.  He lives and works in the South of France and London.

In 2010 a major new monograph on Culbert written by the poet, novelist and critic Ian Wedde, was published by Auckland University Press.

Background to New Zealand’s participation in the Venice Biennale

New Zealand first exhibited at the Biennale in 2001 with further exhibitions in 2003 and 2005.

In December 2007 Creative New Zealand’s Arts Council committed to a New Zealand presence at the Venice Biennale for the 2009, 2011 and 2013 exhibitions.

Artists who have exhibited previously are: Peter Robinson and Jacqueline Fraser (2001), Michael Stevenson (2003), et al. (2005), Judy Millar and Francis Upritchard (2009) and Michael Parekowhai (2011).

Creative New Zealand's level of investment in the 2013 Venice Biennale will be $650,000. This includes the rental and staffing of a pavilion for New Zealand during the six-month exhibition and a fee for the artist to assist with the costs of making and shipping their work to Venice.