Anthony Byrt

  • MICHAEL PAREKŌWHAI

    FOR EXACTLY TWO DECADES, New Zealand’s national museum, Te Papa Tongarewa, has tried to map the country’s vexed bicultural history—a history that began with the first contact between Māori and Europeans and continues, to this day, in the complex relationships between Māori and Pākehā (New Zealanders of European descent). To accomplish this task, Te Papa followed a distinctly 1990s logic, doing away with the separation between the national museum and the national art collection, and—under the shamelessly hopeful slogan “Our Place”—combining the two institutions in one grand,

  • “Lisa Reihana: Cinemania”

    The exhibition for New Zealand’s pavilion at the 2017 Venice Biennale, “Lisa Reihana: Emissaries,” consisted almost entirely of the artist’s massive video projection in Pursuit of Venus [infected], 2015–17, which reimagines Jean-Gabriel Charvet’s early-nineteenth-century scenic wallpaper Les Sauvages de la Mer Pacifique. Reihana’s digital panorama attempts to subvert the original wallpaper’s arcadian portrayal of James Cook’s voyages, deploying performers who act out the real-life events and traumas of early contact between British and Pacific peoples. This show—which

  • CURVE BALL

    AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND’S largest city, has long instrumentalized Pacific people as a way to demonstrate its cosmopolitanism and diversity. It trades heavily on its status as one of the world’s biggest Polynesian metropolises (boasting a Pacific population of some two hundred thousand, almost 15 percent of Auckland’s total inhabitants); the city’s self-promotional efforts routinely foreground Pacific culture, artists, and, most of all, sportspeople—billboards advertising local rugby matches and underwear alike feature muscular brown men as a kind of shorthand for erotically charged athleticism.

  • Colin McCahon

    IN 2002, Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum presented a survey of the late New Zealand artist Colin McCahon. Called “A Question of Faith,” it was staged in the belief, held by the Stedelijk’s then director, Rudi Fuchs, that McCahon was one of the great artists of the mid-twentieth century. Though Fuchs’s enthusiasms never went viral in the way the exhibition’s organizers had hoped, there have been occasional international champions of the artist since then—most notably Thomas Crow, who has recently placed McCahon’s work, alongside that of Sister Corita Kent, Robert Smithson, James Turrell, and

  • Gottfried Lindauer

    Between the 1870s and early 1900s, the Czech émigré Gottfried Lindauer crisscrossed New Zealand, hawking his skills as a portraitist. His paintings were competent, if unspectacular: realist likenesses very often made by working from (and sometimes over) photographs. His portraits of the Māori, particularly those wearing moko (traditional tattoos), are, however, major documents of New Zealand’s colonial history. Many of them traveled to Berlin’s Alte Nationalgalerie and the Gallery of West Bohemia in Pilsen, Czech Republic, (Lindauer’s birthplace) in 2014–15, after the Nationalgalerie’s director,

  • Francis Upritchard

    In Francis Upritchard’s survey “Jealous Saboteurs,” visitors encountered such characters as a Harlequin with a suspiciously amorous bulge in his diamond-patterned tights, his arms spread with a kind of “Hey, forget about it!” nonchalance (Mandrake, 2011); a putrid-yellow man standing in an archer’s pose with a semi-erection that pointed almost parallel to his extended arm (David [Robin], 2012); and a black woman with an elongated neck clutching one of her breasts (Hannah, 2016). These figurative sculptures were installed on pedestals created by Upritchard’s husband, designer Martino Gamper:

  • “Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph”

    “Emanations” was, according to the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, the world’s first comprehensive survey of cameraless photography. That it was happening here and now was the result of several factors coming together at just the right time: the opening of the Len Lye Centre at the Govett-Brewster; the return of New Zealander Simon Rees from Europe to take up its directorship in 2014; the fact that one of the world’s most prominent theorists of photography, Geoffrey Batchen, is now based at Wellington’s Victoria University; and an increasing curatorial fascination at the center with two groups of

  • Luke Willis Thompson

    The colonial period in the South Pacific may notionally be over, but its legacies are ever present, particularly in the way island nations struggle to survive in the global economy. Market forces well beyond the people’s control shape the economic life of the islands—whether that means growing niche commodities like vanilla in Tonga or allowing ecologically destructive mining in Papua New Guinea. Luke Willis Thompson’s Sucu Mate/Born Dead, 2016, offered a complicated picture of these intersections of colonialism, labor, death, and global trade. And it does so with a minimal gesture: a single

  • diary February 20, 2016

    Opening Belle

    BETWEEN SEPTEMBER 2010 and February 2011, Christchurch—New Zealand’s second-largest city—was hit by a series of earthquakes. The first, in the early hours of September 4, registered at 7.1, and caused plenty of infrastructural and property damage. But it was a shallower, 6.3 quake on February 22 that devastated the city: 185 people were killed; 115 of them in a single, multistory building that “pancaked.” There was widespread damage to homes, workplaces, and city assets like hospitals and schools; underground sewer and water systems were destroyed; and there was a massive amount of “liquefaction”—in

  • Matthew Barney

    Matthew Barney’s vastly ambitious “Cremaster” cycle, 1994–2002, was finished and presented in that window between 9/11 and the financial collapse of 2008. Not surprisingly, several critics saw it as a bloated corollary to American pomp and male triumphalism. The US has faced some harsh truths since then, but Barney’s follow-up project, “River of Fundament,” 2008–14, is just as grandiose: a series of epic performances, a five-hour-long film-cum-opera scored by Jonathan Bepler, drawings, storyboards, and a group of monumental sculptures. As with “Cremaster” there are cars, metamorphosing figures,

  • “Billy Apple®: The Artist has to Live Like Everybody Else”

    In 1962, the young New Zealand–born artist Barrie Bates bleached his hair and eyebrows in his London flat and changed his name to Billy Apple®. In the ensuing decades, Apple moved from London to New York and then back to his home country, making significant contributions to the development of Pop and Conceptualism along the way. His work can’t be neatly subsumed by these rubrics, however. For more than half a century, Apple’s interdisciplinary practice has explored the creative potential of advertising, science, and technology—from his early work with Xerox, neon,

  • Kim Pieters

    Kim Pieters took a risk in titling her first survey exhibition “what is a life?” Such a portentous question is hard to address, but it turned out to be a near-perfect encapsulation of the self-examining quality of the artist’s work. Encompassing video, sound, photography, drawing, and, most of all, painting, her oeuvre comes together not so much through specific forms as via a kind of mood: a wintry, subantarctic cool that permeates everything. It’s tempting to read this in autobiographical terms: Pieters has spent most of her working life in Dunedin, New Zealand’s southernmost city of any real

  • picks August 14, 2014

    “The Walters Prize”

    In 2012, the Walters Prize judges were criticized for selecting a short list of works few had actually seen in person. It was a sign of globalization’s impact on New Zealand art; all four of the projects had been shown overseas. This year’s short list, by contrast, contains only one offshore work: Simon Denny’s All You Need is Data – The DLD 2012 Conference REDUX, 2013, first exhibited at Kunstverein Munich. Denny’s massive installation is effectively a walk-in conference program, in which he cuts and pastes details of every session from the titular gathering and turns them into ugly inkjet

  • diary March 24, 2014

    Water’s Edge

    SYDNEY IS A BRISTLING harbor city that evolved as a haphazard solution to nineteenth-century economic questions—build fast and build close to the water, to get stuff, and people from all over the world, in and out as quickly as possible. Despite its being one of the region’s most contemporary cities, you can still feel its colonial pulse: the crush of people from all over Asia and the Pacific, the heat, the ever-present potential for violence, and the constant, unavoidable relationship with the water. For several iterations now, the Biennale of Sydney has placed the city’s frontier past at its

  • The 7th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art

    In the past decade, the Asia-Pacific region has had to cope with more than its share of natural disasters: The 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, the 2009 “Black Saturday” bushfires in the Australian state of Victoria, the February 2011 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the earthquake and tsunami in Japan’s Sendai prefecture a month later are among the most tragic examples. Social and political structures in the region have been just as volatile as the natural environment, thanks in part to the impact of globalization, and in particular to a spreading awareness that the twenty-first century

  • diary May 21, 2013

    . . . You’d Be Home by Now

    AUCKLAND IS A WEIRD PLACE. It’s routinely identified as one of the most “livable” cities in the world, but it’s also characterized by crippling urban sprawl and prohibitive housing costs. The morning Hou Hanru’s iteration of the Auckland Triennial, “If you were to live here...,” opened to the public, the New Zealand Herald led with a story about the city’s housing bubble: In a few years, the average home, it predicted, will cost a million bucks ($800,000 USD). But Auckland is also energetic, hopeful, and increasingly shaped by a cultural mix of Maori, Pacific Islanders, Asians, and people of

  • Ruth Buchanan

    In almost all of her recent work, Ruth Buchanan has examined the physical spaces of language: books and the buildings that house them. In her book The weather, a building, 2012, for example, she traced the movement of Berlin’s Staatsbibliothek—from its original location on Unter den Linden; through wartime Germany, when its most valuable items were dispersed through the Reich; and to its final resting place on Potsdamer Straße in 1978. Buchanan used the library, and hence the book as such, as a cipher for the shunting of ideas and values through a city scarred by its complex relationship

  • The 5th Auckland Triennial

    The fifth edition of Auckland’s festival of contemporary art baits its audience with the title “If you were to live here . . .” and invites more than thirty artists and collectives—including Anri Sala, Allora and Calzadilla, Peter Robinson, and Luke Willis Thompson—to complete curator Hou Hanru’s open-ended line. Such a conceit could easily feel flat these days, but Hou—for whom the exhibition is “an interaction between artists, people, and the city to envisage possible futures”—has plenty of experience in making such speculative, relational shows into

  • 18th Biennale of Sydney

    Globalization and its consequences are standard biennial fare. What made the “18th Sydney Biennale: all our relations” different was its sheer optimism. Artistic directors Catherine de Zegher and Gerald McMaster clearly wanted to give audiences an experience of shared communicative spaces largely unburdened by prevailing, doom-laden views of our current state. Critics have trashed their vision for being too big, too unfocused, too cuddly. All of which is true, but overlooks the show’s ambition. De Zegher and McMaster attempted a huge and risky piece of curatorial orchestration, with each venue

  • “Prospect: New Zealand Art Now”

    Every few years, Wellington’s City Gallery stages “Prospect” in an attempt to take the pulse of contemporary New Zealand art. For the survey’s fourth incarnation, curator Kate Montgomery made a small but significant change was made to the show’s subtitle, from “New Art New Zealand” to “New Zealand Art Now.” The tweak implied a more urgent engagement with the present. Montgomery had also learned from earlier versions, which were often noisy, overcrowded affairs. By contrast, her selection was extremely focused: sixteen artists, all but three born between 1974 and 1985, thus neatly qualifying as