Thursday, October 31, 2013


The names of the artists participating in the 19th Biennale of Sydney next year were announced last night. There were 90 of then showing across five venues. The director of the event Juliana Engberg has called her Biennale You Imagine What You Desire but strangely this is possibly the first Sydney Biennale to not include a single New Zealand artist (well, one - see below). Strangely, because Engberg has been a strong supporter of NZ artists and art. She was even Senior Curator of the Art & Industry Biennale in Christchurch in 2002.

There is of course no rule that says New Zealand has to be represented in the Biennale but this one seems to have a penchant for smaller nations (e.g. five artists from Norway, seven from Switzerland and three from Scotland) and for this part of the world (20 artists from Australia).

And Engberg was unable to find a single significant New Zealand artist to contribute to her theme of “celebrating the power of artistic imagination”? Come on.

There were some warning signs. Back in May Engberg did visit New Zealand and her adventures are covered on her Biennale blog. No artists got a mention but in Auckland she gave top marks to a meal at Sunday Painters and in Wellington was finally able to answer a pressing question about where all the sausage dog door stoppers have gone “They’re all over here in New Zealand’s land of the long white cloud and sensible home making”.

Creative New Zealand is listed among the “Cultural Funders” of Engberg’s Biennale so we assumed they must have paid for Engberg’s trip. On checking the funding lists though we can’t find any evidence of CNZ funding for the BofS. We’ll ask them what’s the story and get back to you.

(A couple of readers have pointed out that there is one New Zealander included, Shannon Te Ao. We were fooled by the fact that Shannon was born in Australia but apologies to him) - Thanks for letting us know B and J
Shannon Te Ao