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MICHAEL PAREKŌWHAI

View of “Michael Parekōwhai: Détour,” 2018, Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington. Scaffolding: Michael Parekōwhai, Forest Etiquette, 2018. Counterclockwise, from top left: Michael Parekōwhai, Standing on Memory, 2018; Colin McCahon, Northland Panels, 1958; Marcel Duchamp, Boîte-en-valise, 1961; Michael Parekōwhai, Tiki Tour, 2018. Photo: Maarten Holl.

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, self-consciously postmodern building, complete with the interactive, Ralph Appelbaum–designed displays of the kind that were endemic in museums during that era. Ever since, art has played second fiddle at Te Papa, whether because of inadequate gallery space; the impulse to instrumentalize artworks

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