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New Zealand's Impressive Return To Venice Biennale

Date: 16 June 2003

Trekka cuts a track in Venice

New Zealand's impressive return to the Venice Biennale

New Zealand promised to return to the Venice Biennale after its successful debut in 2001 - and the official launch of New Zealand artist Michael Stevenson's This is the Trekka at La Maddalena church left 500 guests in no doubt that we were back.

Chief Executive of Creative New Zealand Elizabeth Kerr was on front-of-house duties on opening day and received a lot of positive feedback from visitors.

"It's been going extremely well," she says. "People were waiting for the doors to open and more than 200 visitors went through on the first morning alone. We were very pleased because the first day can be quiet."

Established in 1895, the Venice Biennale is the world's oldest international critical forum for contemporary visual art, and attracts thousands of the world's most influential artists, curators, critics, gallery directors and collectors.

In the first four days, from 12 - 15 June, close to 2400 people visited the New Zealand exhibition. The Vernissage (media preview period) continued for three days until 14 June and the first public day was 15 June. New Zealand held its press conference on the final day of the Vernissage and this was attended by a number of international media, including Frieze and Art Forum. Both were impressed by the New Zealand exhibition.

The Moniac – image Courtesy of New Zealand Institute of Economic Research

René Block, Director of the Künsthalle Fridericianum in Kassel, Germany holds Michael Stevenson's work in high regard, describing it as "really superb".

And Vivianne Loria, an art critic for a Madrid art magazine, Redactoria, says she came to the opening because she was intrigued by the publicity material she had received about This is the Trekka. "Although I don't know the story behind the Trekka, I could appreciate it and I was impressed by the standard of the exhibition," she says.

IMAGE: The Trekka Arrives In Crates

The numbers attending This is the Trekka are very encouraging, Elizabeth Kerr says, because New Zealand is exhibiting outside the main exhibition area, the Giardini, which closed to new exhibitors several years ago. A total of 63 countries are exhibiting at the Venice Biennale 2003 and there are as many exhibits (32) outside the Giardini as inside.

New Zealand's location on the Strada Nova, one of Venice's busiest shopping streets, is expected to continue attracting the art audience and local passers-by.

Miss Kerr says visitors from Ireland, the United States, Germany, Santo Domingo, France, the Netherlands, Italy and Britain had come to La Maddalena, the venue for the New Zealand exhibition, specifically to see the installation. The church, La Maddalena, is a rare example of 18th century architecture in Venice. It was closed for restoration for many years but re-opened its doors with the New Zealand exhibition.

"It's a good location, easy for people to find and the church is beautiful," Miss Kerr says. "Opening day was a very exciting day for the project after months and months of work. It was great to see the exhibition looking fantastic, with all the complete components working well, and people interacting with it.

"The team in Venice are keen to build on the links with other countries that were established in 2001."

The New Zealand exhibition is an initiative of Creative New Zealand, working in partnership with City Gallery Wellington. Australian arts management company Global Art Projects (GAP) has assisted with exhibition management.

Paula Savage, Director of the City Gallery Wellington says that presenting New Zealand art at the 50th Venice Biennale has been a gratifying experience.

"We are thrilled with the very positive acknowledgement of Michael Stevenson's installation by both international media and the international art world," she says.

Creative New Zealand and City Gallery Wellington would like to thank the following for their support and assistance with the New Zealand exhibition: The Patrons of the Venice Biennale, Trade New Zealand, New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Montana Wines Limited, ANZ Banking Group (New Zealand) Limited, Waimak Mineral Water Limited, New Zealand Television Archive, New Zealand Institute of Economic Research.

City Gallery Wellington will show the exhibition in New Zealand after the Venice Biennale concludes in November 2003.


Please note:

More Images of the New Zealand exhibition and the opening are posted on the New Zealand at Venice website.

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