18 Dec 2017

This content is tagged as Multi-Artform .


Lisa Reihana Emissaries leaves Venices Biennale Arte 2017 on a high

Lisa Reihana: Emissaries has left Venice’s Biennale Arte 2017 with accolades, destined for further presentations in Vienna, London, Paris, Sydney and Perth.

“The best artwork at the Biennale? That will be Lisa Reihana’s in Pursuit of Venus, in the New Zealand pavilion...Where most panoramas present a fixed viewpoint, this one moves and unfolds in a riveting animated sequence that took 10 years to complete and that deserves to be recognised as one of the key artworks of recent years."

– Waldemar Januszczak, The Sunday Times (UK) 

The Biennale Arte 2017 has closed, following a spectacular six-month presentation of Lisa Reihana: Emissaries, the exhibition for the New Zealand pavilion.

Launched in May 2017, Lisa Reihana: Emissaries featured the artist’s vast panoramic video in Pursuit of Venus [infected], 2015–17, alongside interrelated photo-based and sculptural works that explored and disrupted notions of beauty, authenticity, history and myth.

The International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia is widely recognised as the most distinguished international art exhibition in the world. This year the biennale attracted 615,000 visitors over its six-month run, making it the best-attended year in its history.

Numerous international media outlets highlighted Lisa Reihana: Emissaries as one of the top pavilions this year, including The Telegraph (UK)The Times UKThe Sunday Times(UK), The Venice Insiderfreize, The Upcoming, Elephant Magazine, SPIEGEL International and The Arts Desk.

The work was also received positively in New Zealand with broad media coverage, including The Hui (Newshub/TV3), One News (TVNZ), and Te Karere (TVNZ), The Listener, NZ Herald, Paperboy, Radio NZ’s Standing Room Only, Radio NZ’s Nine to Noon, Morning Report, Radio NZ’s Sunday Morning.

“The exhibition Lisa Reihana: Emissaries has now closed in Venice, but its impact will continue through presentations over the next two years in numerous major public galleries across the world,” says Commissioner for NZ at Venice 2017 Alastair Carruthers CNZM.

“The demand to present Lisa Reihana's work doesn’t surprise me. From the moment she wondered about reimagining the 200 year old French wallpaper, Lisa knew she could be on to a killer art work, and she was right. The ambition and scale of Lisa’s final vision is vast.  

“To the talented team at Creative New Zealand, our curator Rhana Devenport, our Head of Patrons Leigh Melville, our Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy, our Embassy in Rome, our partners, sponsors, supporters and patrons – heartfelt thanks for your work and generous support.”

New Presentations

Lisa has a full schedule of onward exhibitions immediately following the close of the biennale.

in Pursuit of Venus [infected] is currently on display at Vienna’s Weltmuseum Wien (World Museum Vienna). The panoramic video will then be shown in Campbelltown Art Centre in Sydney from January 2018. In February 2018 Perth’s John Curtin Gallery will exhibit Lisa Reihana: Emissaries as part of the Perth International Arts Festival.

in Pursuit of Venus [infected], 2015–17 will also be exhibited by the Royal Academy of Arts in London next year as part of a major survey of the arts of Oceania marking its 250th anniversary. (The academy was founded in 1768, the same year Captain Cook set sail to search for a southern continent.) In 2019 it will be presented at the Musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac, Paris, as part of their Océanie exhibition. 

For more information on New Zealand’s presentation at the Biennale Arte 2017 visit www.nzatvenice.com or follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitter and YouTube.


In the media

Canadian Art: “Reihana’s flawless projection...is a cinematic landscape that brings to life, recalls and disrupts the colonial memory embedded in 17th-century wallpaper that depicts the voyages of Captain Cook and other explorers’ voyages across the Pacific.”

Radio NZ: “On walking into the giant space this morning, and throwing myself into the narrative, I was immersed in it. It is extraordinary. It makes strong points about colonisation and cross cultural misunderstanding, while also celebrating cross cultural appreciation. It is truly beautiful and unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. Walking around other works at the Arsenale today, I saw nothing else like it there either.”

The Times UK: “This show sets the scene for what promises, in 2018, to be a Royal Academy blockbuster.”

NZ Herald: “The show is described as the ‘Olympics of the art world’ and, judging by reaction to Reihana’s Emissaries, she would be a gold medal winner from the 120 artists from 83 countries selected.”

The Venice Insider: “It’s really phenomenal and a digital tour de force.”

The Guardian: “One contemporary art highlight [for the Royal Academy of Arts’ 2018 Oceania exhibition] will be a work which was, in some eyes, one of the stars of this summer’s Venice Biennale: a gripping panoramic video work by New Zealand artist Lisa Reihana that charts the arrival of the British and its consequences.”

The Listener: “Lisa Reihana’s arrival at the Venice Biennale was the crowning moment of a 10-year journey.”

Governor-General HE The Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy: “In this time of global upheaval and tension, it is a work that resonates, reminding us as it does, to value and respect cultural difference and the dignity of human life in all its glorious diversity.”


From the visitors’ book

“Just incredible and devastating at the same time.”

“The artist captures what I want to be able to tell my children; how important it is to be respectful of difference. I was moved to tears.”

"Superb, insightful, critical, reflective, stimulating, thought-provoking work. It brilliantly deconstructs storytelling about history…But what is more, told in a scale that is panoramic and epic, but intimate. A lot of depth, but with a light touch. Innocence with an undertone of peril.”

“It is fantastic how your gaze is not controlled, as it is with cinema. When I was watching I noticed people pointing out different scenes to each other. It allows a much more open viewing experience.”

“I am from Brazil and the colonial themes present in this work reverberate with me – an excellent work."

“I'm a teacher of Indigenous Studies in America and this is an incredible display; it's so important to have this here.”

“I’ve been going to the Biennale for many years and this is one of the most outstanding things I’ve seen.”

​“This is insanely beautiful. To see the indigenous cultures depicted so beautifully, it brings tears to my eyes."

“Absolutely wonderful. So engaging and powerful. The best work I've seen.”

“I’ve never seen a story told in a medium like that before – it's incredible.”

“The best thing I've seen; so thrilling the way it weaves art history with digital technology to create something so compelling.”

“Thank you for such a rich and fascinating piece of work. We felt we were experiencing the new and the familiar from the points of view of all those you portrayed. Very beautiful and moving. Technically inventive – great soundscape.”

“This is absolutely amazing. Incredible. So many friends have told me I must come and see this and I'm so impressed. This is unforgettable.”

“I walked in and saw Cook and it was unbelievable! I'm from the small village where he grew up...he's been such a big part of my life and it is fascinating to see him in this work.”

“Ngā mihi nui mō tau mahi toi. He taonga nō Aotearoa mō te au whānui.”


Biennale Arte 2017 in numbers

The exhibition

  • 120 artists invited to the Exhibition
  • 86 national participations
  • 23 national participations in the Arsenale, including Italy and New Zealand

Visitor numbers

  • 615,152 total visitors
    • 45% Italian visitors
    • 55% foreign visitors (most of whom from Germany, France, Austria, Great Britain and USA)
  • 3,434 average visitors per day
  • 23,531 visitors over preview days 
  • Young people and students were 31% of total visitors

The students who visited the Biennale Arte 2017 as a group comprised 15% of the overall number of visitors. This included groups from New Zealand schools Palmerston North Girls High School and St Cuthberts College, who travelled the farthest to visit the biennale.


Special thanks

Special thanks to New Zealand at Venice partners and supporters including Te Papa Tongarewa, Auckland Art Gallery, Leigh Melville and the New Zealand at Venice Patrons, New Zealand Governor-General HE The Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy, Peter Gordon, Allpress Espresso, The Royal Society and Black Estate Wines.