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New Book Reveals Significance Of Portraits In Te Papa’s Most Popular Permanent Art Exhibition

The portrait wall in Toi Art, the art gallery within New Zealand’s national museum, Te Papa, is the most popular permanent art exhibition for visitors. Hung salon-style on dark red walls, its 36 arresting portraits span historical portraiture to contemporary practice, and represent mana.

Some trumpet the status of European royalty, Māori leaders, or prosperous colonial settlers in New Zealand. Others advertise the skills of the artist. All carry stories from the past into the present.

Now a compact but informative guide by co-curators Rebecca Rice and Matariki Williams published this week provides permanent detail of all the arresting historical portraits in the exhibition. Written in both English and te reo, Ngā Tai Whakarongorua | Encounters engages with the works themselves and the major issues in New Zealand portrait art, providing a starting point for exploring questions of art, identity, and cross-cultural exchange.


Dr Rebecca Rice is Curator Historical New Zealand Art at Te Papa. Her current research focuses on nineteenth-century female botanical artists, the visual culture of the New Zealand Wars, and the impact of impressionism on New Zealand artists at home and abroad.

Matariki Williams (Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Hauiti, Taranaki), formerly Curator Mātauranga Māori at Te Papa, is now Pou Hītori Māori Matua | Senior Māori Historian at Manatū Taonga, the Ministry for Culture and History. She interested in the depth and breadth of mātauranga Māori and te ao Māori and how this contributes to a diverse contemporary Māori society. Her research interests include contemporary social history, art, and digital expressions of self and culture.

Ngā Tai Whakarongorua | Encounters: Te pātū kōwaiwai kiritangata ki Toi Te Papa | The portrait wall at Toi Art, Te Papa

By Rebecca Rice and Matariki Williams, published by Te Papa Press
Paperback | $22.00

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