ARTicle Magazine

Three picks from Toi Art at Te Papa

11 April 2018

Three Te Papa curators – Megan Tamati-Quennell, Lizzie Baikie and Justine Olsen – discuss a favourite piece from the new two-storied gallery space Toi Art, recently opened at our national museum.

Toi Art entrance Te Papa

Toi Art entrance, Michael Parekowhai Détour, (installation view), 2018. Photograph by Maarten Holl. Te Papa


Featuring a mix of current and permanent exhibitions, Toi Art can be found on levels 4 and 5 of Te Papa. Entry is free. 

Megan Tamati-Quennell, Te Papa Curator Modern and Contemporary Māori and Indigenous Art, discusses a stand-out work in Michael Parekowhai’s ambitious new project, Détour, on Level 4.

The Shortcut Gallery

People viewing Michael Parekowhai’s The Shortcut Gallery, wood, paint, glass, cotton, paper, plastic, light bulb, courtesy of Michael Parekowhai. Photograph by Jo Moore. Te Papa

Michael Parekowhai, Nga Ariki Kaiputahi iwi 
The Shortcut Gallery, 2018
wood, paint, glass, cotton, paper, plastic, light bulb
Courtesy of Michael Parekowhai

The Shortcut Gallery by Michael Parekowhai, is based in part on Christo’s important Store Front series begun in the 1960s. Christo’s Store Front works included actual store fronts created to scale, collages and drawings. Here Parekowhai uses Christo’s store front concept to create an artwork that houses a treasured collection item from the Te Papa history collection. The item is a moon rock which features fragments of rock collected by astronauts during the Apollo Moon Landing Mission in 1972.

Parekowhai’s The Shortcut Gallery also riffs off The Wrong Gallery that Italian art jokester Maurizio Cattelan and two colleagues opened in New York in 2002. The Wrong Gallery was described as the “smallest exhibition space in New York” and consisted of an expensive glass door with 2.5 metres of floor space behind it. The gallery was a satire of the “white cube” galleries in Chelsea, with The Wrong Gallery door an exact replica of the Chelsea galleries doors. It was referred to by Cattelan and his colleagues as “the back door to contemporary art – one that's ‘always locked’”. 

Parekowhai enjoyed using the moon rock in Détour.  He once said that not only was he able to create “a world” people could enter with his forest of plastic trees, but with it, he was able to take them to the moon and back.

“Not only was he able to create ‘a world’ people could enter with his forest of plastic trees, but with it, he was able to take them to the moon and back”

Lizzie Baikie, Te Papa Assistant Art Curator, on a new installation by Janet Lilo, Top16, in Turangawaewae: Art and New Zealand, on Level 5.

Janet Lilo

Janet Lilo, Top16 (installation view), 2018. Photo: Maarten Holl

Janet Lilo
Top16, 2007–2017
neon sculpture, benches, whiteboard wall, selfie wall graphic, video

With this work Janet Lilo creates a three dimensional profile page we can walk into, move about in, and interact with while sharing the experience with others who are doing the same. A large neon sculpture inspired by the original Bebo message invites us to “Share the love”, a montage wall of social media selfies is re-contextualised into the physical space of the gallery as a wall of portraits, a vinyl “brick wall” encourages us to share our own messages, benches invite us to sit and socialise while people sing to us via video from the comfort of their bedrooms. By bringing our online existence into the gallery, the work makes us engage physically with the space, so we post on the wall, browse photos, watch videos and chat with friends. 

Researched and developed over ten years, Top16 is an investigation into public and private identity, ownership, authenticity and the meaning of community in our digital age. With it, Lilo highlights the idea of the online community as a carefully curated construction, and by doing so she opens up a conversation about what art is, who it’s for and how accessible it can be.

“Researched and developed over ten years, Top16 is an investigation into public and private identity, ownership, authenticity and the meaning of community in our digital age”

Justine Olsen, Te Papa Curator Decorative Art and Design, on Te Papa Storage Room Necklace, a new work in Lisa Walker: I want to go to my bedroom but I can be bothered, on Level 4. 

Lisa Walker, Te Papa Storage Room

Lisa Walker, Te Papa Storage Room Necklace, 2017, photographic paper, cardboard, metal, cotton fibre. Te Papa

Lisa Walker
Te Papa Storage Room Necklace, 2017
photographic paper, cardboard, metal, cotton fibre
Te Papa

Jewellery and photography merge as Lisa Walker presents one of her most recent pieces in her survey exhibition I want to go to my bedroom but I can’t be bothered. The exhibition currently at Te Papa considers Walker’s journey over a 30-year period from 1988. Training first in Dunedin and then in Munich, her jewellery has received international attention, winning in 2010 the Françoise van den Bosch Award.

Challenging conventions, and questioning how jewellery may relate to art and society, Walker always surprises. This necklace, comprising of photographs strung to a simple cord, took her into the art store room at Te Papa: she says “I realised my initial interest of wanting to seek out certain artists became irrelevant, and the storage practices and techniques were what was compelling and beautiful. I took photographs of the areas I found interesting and used the photographs themselves as a material for a necklace.” The first image we see is a view of Michael Stevenson’s painting Little Crown within its tray; ideas like conservation, storage and the non-exhibition treatment of a work of art creep in. Walker treats photography like any other medium – “anything is food for art”.

“Challenging conventions, and questioning how jewellery may relate to art and society, Walker always surprises”

For further details on current and national exhibitions go to Te Papa's Toi Art page.