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NZ art profiled at the 49th Venice Biennale

New Zealand art profiled
for the first time
at the 49th Venice Biennale

Contemporary New Zealand art will be represented for the first time at the oldest and most important international visual arts event in the world, the Venice Biennale of Art, opening in June 2001.

The drive to see New Zealand art showcased at this prestigious event has been led by Creative New Zealand. Held once every two years over a five-month period, the Venice Biennale of Art attracts thousands of the world’s most influential artists, curators, critics and collectors.

Arts Board Chair Christopher Finlayson said the exposure of New Zealand art at Venice would have major, long-term benefits for visual artists and for New Zealand.

“No other visual arts event in the world captures the attention and audiences that Venice does. This is the first time that New Zealand has been invited to take part. We have just received the official invitation from the Biennale authorities on behalf of the Government of Italy,” Mr Finlayson said.

“Our representation at the Venice Biennale will promote New Zealand art to an international audience, help develop new and existing markets, and provide creative and professional development for the artists and co-ordinators involved.

“It is also an extraordinary opportunity for cultural diplomacy, enhancing New Zealand’s profile as a vibrant and creative Pacific nation.”

A three-day preview period (the Vernissage) before the opening is an important networking and promotional occasion for art professionals, VIPs and the media. Organisers estimate that of the 20,000 people attending the Vernissage, more than half are official media representatives.

“The level of media interest is phenomenal and clearly, there will be considerable discussion and commentary in the world media,” Mr Finlayson said.

Creative New Zealand’s investment in the Venice Biennale is a vital component of its international strategy to profile New Zealand arts and show the world the depth and diversity of our artistic talent.

Research was undertaken to ensure investment in the Venice Biennale would have significant outcomes for New Zealand visual arts, Mr Finlayson said. It showed that a long-term commitment to representation at the Biennale was important so that strategic developments and connections could be built.

Well-known collector and art parton Jenny Gibbs has been invited to be the Commissioner, a role vital to the international representation and profile of the exhibiting country.

“I am delighted and honoured to be the Commissioner for our participation in next year’s event,” Ms Gibbs said. “This is the world’s pre-eminent art expo and our presence there is long overdue.”

The two artists representing New Zealand at the Venice Biennale next year are Peter Robinson (Ngai Tahu) of Christchurch and Jaqueline Fraser (Ngai Tahu) of Auckland. They were selected by a committee of gallery directors and academics.

The criteria for selection included artists with an established New Zealand profile, an international exhibiting history, experience with complex projects, and work that contained references to New Zealand identity, is current and original.

Fraser, who describes the Venice Biennale as “the Olympics of the art world”, says New Zealand has a formidable international reputation and the queue of New Zealand artists able to meet the standards of Venice was very long.

“I’m very grateful to be able to set the shows in motion,” she said.

For Peter Robinson, who has just completed the Arts Board’s one-year artist’s residency at the Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin, the invitation to represent New Zealand at the Biennale was “very exciting”.

“Despite the fact that only one or two artists are selected from each country for every Biennale, the impact for the entire visual culture of New Zealand could potentially be great,” he said. “I believe that the presence of New Zealand artists at Venice in 2001 and in the future is one of the most significant initiatives and investments made by Creative New Zealand. The sample of our work will create an appetite and a curiosity within the Biennale audience to discover more about New Zealand visual arts.”

The work of Jacqueline Fraser and Peter Robinson will be displayed at the St Apollonia Museum, which is located beside the Doges Palace behind St Mark’s Square.

The Project Manager is Global Art Projects. Elizabeth Caldwell, Visual Arts Adviser for Creative New Zealand, and Greg Burke, Director of the Govett Brewster Gallery in New Plymouth, will co-curate the exhibition.

Creative New Zealand hopes to support New Zealand representation at the next three Venice Biennale events. The organisation is actively negotiating sponsorship and patronage towards an overall project budget of approximately $500,000 for the 2001 event.


For further information contact:

Penelope Borland
Communications Manager
Creative New Zealand
Tel: 04 498 0723
025-534 177

Iona McNaughton
Communications Writer
Creative New Zealand
Tel: 04 498 0715

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