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Biennale Arte 2021: NZ’s artist and curator announced

Biennale Arte 2021: New Zealand’s artist and curator announced

Yuki Kihara, New Zealand’s artist for the 59th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia.

The Arts Council of New Zealand Toi Aotearoa is pleased to announce interdisciplinary artist Yuki Kihara as New Zealand’s artist for the 59th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia presented in 2021.

Yuki is renowned for delving into the complexities of postcolonial histories in the Pacific and interrogating Western misinterpretations from the perspective of Fa’afafine (Samoan for ‘in the manner of a woman’ broadly understood as the LGBTIQ+ in the Western context) community which she belongs to in Sāmoa.

The Arts Council is also pleased to announce Natalie King as the curator for New Zealand’s participation. Currently Enterprise Professor at the University of Melbourne, Natalie has extensive curatorial experience in contemporary art across Australia, Asia-Pacific and Europe. She was the curator of Tracey Moffatt’s acclaimed exhibition for the Australian pavilion at the Biennale Arte 2017.

Arts Council Chair, Michael Moynahan says, “Yuki Kihara will be the first artist of Pacific descent to represent New Zealand at the Biennale Arte. This is a significant moment, not only for Yuki, but for the legacy of the New Zealand presentation.”

“Yuki has built a strong reputation for work that is engaging, visually striking and topical. Her presentation will speak to the shared histories between Aotearoa and the Pacific, illuminating alternative voices through a focus on Yuki’s homeland Sāmoa.”

In response to her official appointment to represent New Zealand at Biennale Arte 2021 Yuki says, “The glass ceiling has been shattered. This moment is so much bigger than me, especially for the Pacific art community. I am humbled by this opportunity and the platform that enables me to further amplify my practice.”

Michael Moynahan has been appointed Commissioner for the Biennale Arte 2021, in compliance with the rules of the Biennale which require Commissioners for official country pavilions to be members of the national governing body. The Commissioner’s role is crucial in supporting the delivery of the exhibition and provides significant ambassadorial support to the project.

Seventeen high-calibre proposals were received for New Zealand’s presentation at the Biennale Arte 2021. They were assessed by a Selection Advisory Panel, chaired by Michael Moynahan.

The Selection Advisory Panel for the Biennale Arte 2021 comprised:

• Lisa Reihana, NZ artist for the Biennale Arte 2017

• Karl Chitham, Director, The Dowse Art Museum, Lower Hutt

• Nina Tonga, Curator Contemporary Art, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington

• Mami Kataoka, Deputy Director and Chief Curator, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo

• Dame Jenny Gibbs, New Zealand at Venice Commissioner 2019

• Leigh Melville, Head of New Zealand at Venice Patrons

• Christina Barton, Director, Adam Art Gallery, Wellington

• Remco de Blaaij, Director, Artspace, Auckland

• Anthony Byrt, Art Critic, Writer and Journalist.

The Biennale Arte is the world’s largest and most prestigious international contemporary art exhibition, attended by key curators, writers and collectors. It opens every two years in late May and runs for approximately six months. It involves more than 80 countries and attracts over 30,000 key international curators, critics, collectors and artists to the three-day Vernissage (preview) period alone.

Creative New Zealand’s financial commitment for the 2021 presentation will be $800,000 over two financial years.

New Zealand has exhibited at the Biennale Arte since 2001. New Zealand artists who have exhibited are: Jacqueline Fraser and Peter Robinson (2001); Michael Stevenson (2003) et al. (2005); Judy Millar and Francis Upritchard (2009); Michael Parekowhai (2011); Bill Culbert (2013); Simon Denny (2015); Lisa Reihana (2017) and Dane Mitchell (2019).

The 2021 announcement follows New Zealand’s highly successful exhibition Post hoc by Dane Mitchell at the Biennale Arte 2019 which attracted widespread international acclaim, and has had 56,263 visitors to date. Post hoc is currently open to the public until 24 November.


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