28 Apr 2017

This content is tagged as Multi-Artform .


First time New Zealand art to feature at international documenta exhibition

New Zealand art will be exhibited for the first time at one of the world’s largest and most highly regarded contemporary art exhibitions, documenta, which is held just once every five years.

Work by the late Ralph Hotere, last year’s Walters Prize nominee Nathan Pohio, and Mata Aho Collective will be featured at the 100 day exhibition documenta 14 in Kassel, Germany and Athens this year.

documenta was originally held at the Fridericianum Museum in Kassel in 1955.  This year’s exhibition is the first time documenta will be held in two locations, Athens from 8 April to 16 July and Kassel from 10 June to 17 September. The exhibitions overlap, duration-wise, and New Zealand work will be exhibited in both locations. Hotere and Mata Aho Collective in Kassel and Pohio in Kassel and Athens.

documenta 14 curator Hendrik Folkerts said he is delighted to present another first in documenta history by showing work by contemporary artists from New Zealand.

“We have selected these artists to show ground-breaking and radical forms of art. They have not only shaped, and continue to shape, New Zealand art history, but also make a significant contribution to the international discourse on contemporary art,” he said.

Supported by Creative New Zealand’s international delegate programme, Te Manu Ka Tau, three curators from documenta’s curatorial team visited New Zealand over the last two years to experience the work of a wide variety of New Zealand artists and gain an understanding of its cultural context.

“It’s been a long term aspiration to see New Zealand work taking its place at this prestigious and much anticipated international exhibition. It’s gratifying to see that work by contemporary Māori artists has been selected by the documenta curatorial team,” said Creative New Zealand Chief Executive Stephen Wainwright.

Creative New Zealand contributed $122,798, via its International Presentation Fund, to enable the work to be presented at documenta and for New Zealand artists to attend.

New Zealand work being presented at documenta 14

Hone Papita Raukura (Ralph) Hotere, ONZ (1931- 2013) (Te Aupōuri)

Ralph Hotere’s 1971 work Malady Panels (acrylic on canvas, 1802 x 7605mm) is being lent to documenta 14 by Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu. The seven Malady Panels can be considered as part of Hotere’s series of Black Paintings which he began in 1968.

Hotere’s Black Paintings took the lead from those by United States abstract painter Ad Reinhardt (1913-1967). Many of the dark canvases are pierced by fine lines and circles, which are often the only hint of colour.

Although wordless, Hotere’s early black paintings (1968) were described by New Zealand Art Historian Francis Pound as “Hotere’s most poetic works”.  Later works, that are also understood as Black paintings, began to incorporate language, primarily poetry from New Zealand poets he admired and knew.

The Malady Panels take their title from a pattern poem by Bill Manhire. The poem is a play on words ‘malady’, ‘melody’, and ‘my lady’, implying the sickness that can accompany love. The poem was used as the basis of several of Hotere’s works in the early 1970s.

Hotere’s work within the context of documenta 14 is significant as it assists with the reframing of modernism through the works of New Zealand indigenous artists.

Hotere is widely regarded as one of New Zealand’s most significant artists nationally and internationally. He studied in New Zealand and in 1961 at the Central School of Art and Design in London. He went on to study, work and exhibit in United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain and Italy before returning to New Zealand in 1965.

documenta 14 will be a return to Kassel for the artist. In 1999 the large-scale work Black Water, a collaboration between Hotere and fellow New Zealand artist Bill Culbert, was part of Toi Toi Toi: Three Generations of arts from New Zealand at the Museum Fridericianum. The exhibition was subsequently shown at Auckland Art Gallery.

Hotere is represented in public and private collections throughout New Zealand and has affected deeply the work of younger generations of artists, both Māori and Pakeha. 

“Hotere…belongs at the forefront of mainstream New Zealand art history. But in a sense he also stands outside it, both as a Maori and as one of the most cosmopolitan, sophisticated, international artists New Zealand has yet produced.”

Professor Jonathon Mane-Wheoki (1943-2014), Art New Zealand 98, Autumn 2001

Mata Aho Collective

Mata Aho Collective, left to right: Bridget Reweti, Sarah Hudson, Terri Te Tau and Erena Baker.
Mata Aho Collective, left to right: Bridget Reweti, Sarah Hudson, Terri Te Tau and Erena Baker.

Mata Aho Collective are Erena Baker, Sarah Hudson, Bridget Reweti and Terri Te Tau. The collective produces large-scale textile works and their practice is founded within the contemporary realities of mātauranga Māori. All work is attributed to Mata Aho Collective as a single entity.

Mata Aho Collective focuses on everyday materials that are iconic within Māori communities. Their work for documenta 14, Kiko Moana, uses light-duty blue tarpaulin that is folded, stitched and slashed. Employing accessible materials and customary Māori sewing tools and techniques, the collective has researched, the work explores how innovation becomes tradition.

The work will be exhibited at the Hessian State Museum in Kassel, Hessisches Landesmuseum, which was reopened in November 2016 after a major redevelopment.

Central to Kiko Moana are the characteristics of the metaphysical beings known as taniwha. Mata Aho Collective are collecting diverse taniwha narratives to portray the multiplicity of indigenous voices and highlight taniwha attributes such as protection, assistance with travel and harbingers of potential danger.

For documenta 14, the collective has continued its wānanga-based practice of developing new work by having members together, in one place, for an extended amount of time. At the wānanga the collective was in communication with Dr Maureen Lander, an installation artist, weaver, and academic of Ngāpuhi and Pākehā descent. The relationship with Dr Lander began in early 2014 at Kōkiri Pūtahi, an indigenous art wānanga, where some of the collective members gained and insight into her critical art practice.

More information on collective members:

  • Erena Baker (Te Atiawa ki Whakarongotai, Ngāti Toa Rangātira) completed a Masters in Māori Visual Arts with First Class Honours through Massey University, Palmerston North in 2009.
  • Sarah Hudson (Ngāti Awa, Ngāi Tūhoe) completed a Masters in Fine Arts with high distinction through Massey University in 2010.
  • Bridget Reweti (Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāi Te Rangi) completed a Masters in Māori Visual Arts with First Class Honours at Massey University, Palmerston North in 2013 and also holds a Post-Graduate Diploma in Museum Studies from Victoria University, Wellington.
  • Terri Te Tau (Rangitāne ki Wairarapa) completed a PhD in Creative Arts at Massey University in Palmerston North in 2015 and also holds a Post-Graduate Diploma in Māori Visual Arts at Massey University.



Nathan Pohio (Waitaha, Kati Mamoe, Ngāi Tahu)

Nathan Pohio, Photo by John Collie, courtesy of Te Puna o Waiwhetu Christchurch Art Gallery
Nathan Pohio, Photo by John Collie, courtesy of Te Puna o Waiwhetu Christchurch Art Gallery.

Nathan Pohio will present two different large photographic works with the title Raise the anchor, unfurl the sails, set course for the centre of an ever setting sun! – one for a public space in Kassel and the other for the EMST, which is Athen’s museum of contemporary art and the city’s main venue for documenta 14.

In Kassel will be the lightbox Raise the anchor, unfurl the sails, set course for the centre of an ever setting sun! 2015. It was commissioned by SCAPE Public Art and first shown in Pohio’s hometown of Ōtautahi Christchurch in SCAPE 8: New Intimacies. In 2016 the work was nominated for New Zealand’s leading contemporary visual art award, the Walters Prize, and exhibited at Auckland Art Gallery.

The work reproduces a photograph recording the visit of the British Governor General and his wife, Lord and Lady Plunket, to Tuahiwi. The site is home to Ngāi Tūāhuriri and played a vital role in Ngāi Tahu history. Pohio sourced the image from a 1905 edition of the Canterbury Times.  In it Māori leaders on horseback in full ceremonial dress, korowai and kākahu (cloaks), are flanking Lord and Lady Plunket in their car. That day the Ngāi Tahu land claim was brought to vice-regal attention and a kete was presented to Lady Plunket.

The work has been described as a mesmerising representation of an important moment in New Zealand history. It was originally presented on the bank of the Otakaro Avon River between a city block owned by Ngāi Tahu and the regenerating Christchurch CBD controlled by the Crown.

Always searching for new objects to sample for his crisp, photo and video installation works, Pohio found a second photograph of the party at Tuahiwi.  The potential of the second image was proposed to the documenta curators and included for the Athens exhibition. The new work Raise the anchor, unfurl the sails, set course for the centre of an ever setting sun! 2017 will match the 2015 work for Kassel in PVC vinyl. Pohio considered a new name to be unnecessary, preferring to leave the works dates, 2015 and 2017, as the way to identify them. Pohio refers to them as work for Kassel and work for Athens and invites this alternative for conversation.

Pohio draws on a variety of photographic and cinematic practices, producing works that contain a heightened and tender cultural energy. He acknowledges three photographers in this ongoing project:

  • C.J. Jennings who took the two glass plate photographs in 1905. Both images were sourced from the Bishop Collection at Canterbury Museum.
  • John Collie who photographed and deftly stitched together the twelve digital images for Raise the anchor, unfurl the sails, set course for the centre of an ever setting sun! 2015 (110 years after Jennings).
  • Mark Adams who for many years has employed the same glass plate technologies Jennings used, contributed a masters hand to Raise the anchor, unfurl the sails, set course for the centre of an ever setting sun! 2017.

documenta background

In 2012 more than 900,000 visitors came to Kassel for the 100-day dOCUMENTA (13).

documenta was established by Kassel painter and academy professor Arnold Bode as a way to bring Germany back into contact with the world, after World War II, by connecting with the international art scene. He founded a society to present art that had been deemed, by the Nazis, as degenerate as well as works from classical modernity that had never been seen in Germany.

The first documenta was a retrospective of works from major movements (Fauvism, Expressionism, Cubism, the Blaue Reiter, Futurism) and individualist artists such as Pablo Picasso, Max Ernst, Hans Arp, Henri Matisse, Wassily Kandinsky and Henry Moore. It attracted 130,000 visitors to Kassel, acting as both a survey of and a forum for contemporary art. documenta has since been established as an institution that goes far beyond a survey. The discourse and the dynamics of the discussion surrounding each documenta reflects and challenges the expectations of society about art.

Writing and publishing are an integral part of documenta 14. South as a State of Mind is a magazine founded by Marina Fokidis in Athens in 2012.  It has temporarily become the documenta 14 journal, publishing four special issues biannually until the opening of the exhibition. 


documenta History