01 Feb 2024
Overnight, the Venice Biennale has announced the artists participating in this year’s international exhibition, Stranieri Ovunque, Foreigners Everywhere.
Significantly, a total of eight New Zealand artists have been invited to participate by curator Adriano Pedrosa.
Sandy Adsett (Ngāti Pahauwera), Brett Graham (Ngāti Koroki Kahukura, Tainui); Fred Graham (Ngāti Koroki Kahukura, Tainui); art collective Mataaho comprising four wāhine Māori: Erena Baker, Sarah Hudson, Bridget Reweti, Terri Te Tau; and and Selwyn Te Ngareatua Wilson (Ngāti Manu, Ngāti Hine) will be presenting work at the 60th international exhibition at the Venice Biennale.
Adriano Pedrosa selected the artists during a visit to New Zealand in March 2023. Amanda Hereaka, Creative New Zealand’s Co-Manager Practice and Pathways says his time in New Zealand was invaluable for our artists.
“It was an incredible opportunity having Adriano Pedrosa here. Within a tight timeframe he saw a wide variety of both contemporary and historic works; we visited exhibitions in different centres and ensured he saw as much work as possible. Adriano has a connection to New Zealand art and artists through his work last year with Nigel Borrell and Indigenous Histories at MASP (Museu de Arte de São Paulo), so he’s familiar with our ways of making, but after seeing New Zealand artists’ work first-hand, he’s selected eight to represent us in Venice.”
Sandy Adsett, whose work is currently part of the Indigenous Histories exhibition at MASP, says he’s committed to Ngā toi Māori.
“I've lived my life with Māori art. Our culture has been challenged, questioned and ignored. Being colonised we lost much. I made a commitment years ago to be tūturu and enjoy the art I respect and belong to,” says Adsett.
The Mataaho collective say it’s an honour to have its work shown at Venice.
“As a collective of four Māori women we feel honoured to be invited to exhibit in the Venice Biennale, alongside the other artists from Aotearoa. We're looking forward to meeting and engaging with artists and artworks from all over the world.”
Mataaho and Brett Graham will be attending Venice and will travel to Italy in March to install their works.
Caren Rangi, Chair of the Arts Council, Toi Aotearoa, says the recognition of our artists comes after successive New Zealand presentations at the Venice Biennale since 2001.
“This is so exciting that for the first time New Zealand has so many artists exhibiting in the international exhibition – it’s a reflection of the ideas they are testing and the esteem that their work is held in. To have eight Ngā toi Māori artists invited and representing Aotearoa New Zealand at the 60th Venice Biennale will raise their profiles internationally and New Zealand’s at the most vibrant art event in the world.”
Creative New Zealand is the principal funder for the New Zealand artists attending the Venice Biennale’s international exhibition, Stranieri Ovunque, Foreigners Everywhere. Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki and The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa have supported New Zealand’s presentation at the Venice Biennale. The project is also significantly supported by the New Zealand at Venice Patrons, whose financial support ensures New Zealand art and artists are represented at La Biennale di Venezia.
The international exhibition takes place within the Arsenale, formerly a large industrial complex that, since the 1980s, has hosted extensive international architecture and art exhibitions.
The Venice Biennale opens on 17 April and runs through till 24 November 2024.
Details of the New Zealand artworks that will be shown are still under wraps and will be announced in April.
Dr Sandy Adsett
Dr Sandy Adsett (Ngāti Pahauwera) is an acclaimed New Zealand artist, a painter, carver, and weaver whose career has also included costume and stage design. Influential as a teacher, he has trained and inspired many of Aotearoa’s most celebrated artists. Born and raised in Raupunga, he attended Te Aute Boy’s College in Hawke’s Bay; in the 1960s he became an arts specialist for the Department of Education, helping to introduce the new Māori Arts in Schools programme. In 2005 he received the Order of New Zealand for Service to Art, and he was made adjunct professor for his contribution to art education and the Māori community by Te Wānanga o Aotearoa. In 2006 he received his Master of Māori Visual Arts with First Class Honours from Massey University; this was followed in 2014 with Massey University awarding him an honorary doctorate.
Brett Graham (Ngāti Koroki Kahukura, Tainui) is a sculptor who creates large scale artworks and installations that explore indigenous histories, politics and philosophies. Graham lives and works in Waiuku on the southern shore of Manukau Harbour (Auckland, New Zealand), though has been a constant traveller through his career, undertaking residences through Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa (the Pacific), North America and Europe. He conceives his Māori whakapapa (ancestry) as a Pasifika/Moana identity and affiliated with a global network of indigenous and non-Western peoples. It is from this basis that Graham's work engages with histories of imperialism and global indigenous issues. Text credit: Anna Marie White.
Frederick John Graham
Frederick John Graham (Ngāti Koroki Kahukura/Tainui) trained as a teacher at Ardmore Teacher’s Training College and specialised in art in his third year later going on to work as an arts advisor in Māori primary schools in Rotorua and Te Tai Tokerau alongside others such as Muru Walters, Ralph Hotere, Arnold Wilson and Kataraina Mataira. Graham then lectured in art at the Palmerston North Teacher’s Training College from 1957 to 1962. He played rugby for the Māori All Blacks and went on to coach many high school first fifteens and Counties Secondary School team.
Graham has been an important figure in the emergence of contemporary Māori art since the early 1960’s. Some of his work has dealt with controversial loss of Māori land, although his central themes are inspired by Māori traditions and pūrākau. He has been in most major exhibitions of contemporary Māori art including the exhibition ‘Te Waka Toi’ that toured the USA and the most recently 'Toi Tu Toi Ora’ at the Auckland City Gallery. Graham has many public works including those at the Auckland High and District Courts, the National Archives in Wellington and Kaitiaki in the Auckland Domain.
His sculptures are a unique fusion of Māori and European cultures, often combining traditional wood and stone with modern materials. Graham’s work has been exhibited and sold to collectors both in Aotearoa New Zealand and around the world. Graham received an ONZM for services to Māori art in 2018 and is an Arts Foundation Icon, of whom there are only 20 at any given time.
Established 2012, Mataaho Collective is four Māori women who create large-scale installations with a single authorship. They are Arts Foundation laureates and won the Walters Art Prize in 2021. Living around Aotearoa New Zealand, Mataaho is composed of:
Erena Baker Arapere (Te Atiawa ki Whakarongotai, Ngāti Toa Rangātira) a Senior Lecturer in Māori Visual Arts at Toioho ki Apiti, Massey University Palmerston North.
Sarah Hudson (Ngāti Awa, Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāti Pūkeko) Whakatāne-based artist and co-founder of Kauae Raro Research Collective.
Bridget Reweti (Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāi Te Rangi) artist, curator, writer and co-editor of ATE Journal of Māori art.
Dr. Terri Te Tau (Rangitāne ki Wairarapa) is an artist and award-winning science fiction author based in the Manawatū.
Selwyn Te Ngareatua Wilson
Taumarere, Tai Tokerau, Aotearoa, New Zealand, 1927 – 2002 Died in Kawakawa, Northland, New Zealand
Considered one of the founding figures of Māori modernism, Selwyn Wilson (Ngāti Manu, Ngāti Hine) enrolled at the Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland, in 1945, becoming the first Māori graduate from a New Zealand art school. By 1951 the paintings from his diploma had been exhibited at the National Art Gallery in Wellington. In a hiatus from art school, he and transferred to Auckland Teacher’s Training college, later teaching art to inmates at Mt Eden prison. Wilson was entirely dedicated to the transformational power of art on disaffected youth. Two of his earliest figurative paintings were acquired by Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki in 1948 and 1950 also making them the first works by a contemporary Māori artist to be acquired by a public gallery in New Zealand. In 1957, Wilson was awarded the Sir Āpirana Ngata Memorial Scholarship to study at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London, upon returning he dedicated himself to teaching positions in remote Northland under a new scheme to widen the scope of education to include Māori arts and crafts in mainstream curricula. Text credit: Natasha Conland.
Background and theme of the Venice Biennale:
Stranieri Ovunque - Foreigners Everywhere, the title of the 60th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, is drawn from a series of works started in 2004 by the Paris-born and Palermo-based collective Claire Fontaine. The works consist of neon sculptures in different colours that render in a growing number of languages the words “Foreigners Everywhere”. The phrase comes, in turn, from the name of a Turin collective who fought racism and xenophobia in Italy in the early 2000s: Stranieri Ovunque.
Adriano Pedrosa is the curator of the Venice Biennale and the director of the Museu de Arte de São Paulo (MASP), Brasil.
Adriano Pedrosa has made a statement about the ideas explored in the project.
The figure of the foreigner is associated with the stranger, the straniero, the estranho, the étranger, and thus the exhibition unfolds and focuses on the production of other related subjects: the queer artist, who has moved within different sexualities and genders, often being persecuted or outlawed; the outsider artist, who is located at the margins of the art world, much like the autodidact and the so-called folk artist; as well as the indigenous artist, frequently treated as a foreigner in their own land.
The backdrop for the work is a world rife with multiple crises concerning the movement and existence of people across countries, nations, territories, and borders, which reflect the perils and pitfalls of language, translation, and ethnicity, expressing differences and disparities conditioned by identity, nationality, race, gender, sexuality, wealth, and freedom. In this landscape, the phrase Foreigners Everywhere has (at least) a dual meaning. First of all, that wherever you go and wherever you are you will always encounter foreigners—they/we are everywhere. Secondly, that no matter where you find yourself, you are always, truly, and deep down inside, a foreigner.
The Biennale Arte 2024 will focus on artists who are themselves foreigners, immigrants, expatriates, diasporic, émigrés, exiled, and refugees—especially those who have moved between the Global South and the Global North.
About the exhibition space:
The Arsenale was the largest production centre in Venice during the pre-industrial era and in full-time periods it had up to 2,000 workers a day. It was a huge complex of construction sites where the Serenissima fleets were built and, therefore, a symbol of the economic, political and military power of the city. Since 1980 the Arsenale has become an exhibition site of La Biennale on the occasion of the 1st International Architecture Exhibition. Later on, the same spaces were used during the Art Exhibitions for the Open section. Since 1999, a programme for the enhancement of the area has been implemented, which has allowed to open to the public, among other places: the Teatro alle Tese and the Teatro Piccolo Arsenale (2000), the Giardino delle Vergini (2009), and the Sale d’Armi (2015).