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Colin McCahon

Colin McCahon, Parihaka Triptych, 1972, acrylic on canvas, 5' 9“ × 12' 4”.

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 Mark Rothko, at the heart of his book No Idols: The Missing Theology of Art (2017).

In New Zealand, the position is much clearer: McCahon is a giant, the most influential artist of the past hundred years. That this is so hinges on the dramatic shift he underwent in the 1960s—the decade

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