Bigger and better

Updated: Jul 28

Four major exhibitions will be unveiled when Te Papa’s new art gallery, Toi Art, opens in March following almost a year of construction.


Now covering two floors of the building, the space for art in the national museum has increased by 35% to 3,980 square metres, roughly the size of 15 tennis courts. Thousands of metres and tonnes of materials have been used to build the new gallery, including 53 tonnes of steel, 9,000 square metres of sheet lining and 27 km of timber framing – enough to stretch from Wellington to Porirua. The entrance gallery, on Level 4 of the museum, is a double-height space with eight-metre-high walls.


Charlotte Davy, Head of Art at Te Papa, says she is excited by the opportunity to have new art commissions and site-specific works created for the gallery. ‘There’ll be performance, dance, fashion, film, music, large-scale and new immersive works on show, which is now made possible by the size of the new gallery spaces.’


Tiffany Singh, 2017. Photography by Kate Whitley. Image courtesy of Te Papa

Kaleidoscope: Abstract Aotearoa is an abstract art exhibition exploring colour, shape and pattern in the Pacific. It includes a new work by Auckland-based contemporary artist Tiffany Singh who is promising an immersive sensory experience, where people can interact with and inform the artwork. She says ‘Expect colour, lots of colour!’ Sarah Farrar, Te Papa Senior Curator Art says, ‘We wanted to work with Tiffany Singh as she is one of New Zealand’s leading installation artists. This was also an opportunity to support a woman artist to develop an ambitious new project. We’ve seen the impact Singh’s work has made over the past decade and her commitment to audience and social practice aligns with our ambitions for the new Toi Art gallery.’


Lisa Walker’s first major retrospective show, I want to go to my bedroom but I can’t be bothered, celebrates the world-renowned jeweller’s 30-year body of work. Walker, who is also attending the international jewellery fair Schmuck in March, is known for challenging the conventions of contemporary jewellery by using found objects like Lego, pencils and cell phones.


Another first retrospective, Pacific Sisters: Fashion Activists, pays tribute to the Pacific Sisters, an artist collective working in fashion, performance, music, and film. Ani O’Neill, Pacific Sister and celebrated artist, says the retrospective is a chance to share their story with the world. ‘Our work is a reflection of the "spark" we have had as Pacific Sisters – finding our connections to our Pacific stories, peoples, lands, each other.’


The fourth exhibition is drawn from Te Papa’s extensive collection and spans historical portraiture to contemporary practice. With painting, sculpture, and photography Tūrangawaewae: Art and New Zealand explores questions of art, identity, and cross-cultural exchange. It features works by Rita Angus, Colin McCahon, Shane Cotton, Gottfried Lindauer, Len Lye, Robyn Kahukiwa and many other iconic New Zealand artists.


Davy says the new gallery will be a celebration of New Zealand identities, explored through the lenses of both new art works and the national art collection. ‘We’re balancing an in-depth examination of influential artists and new art, with the diversity of the national art collection.’


First published ArtZone #73

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