Thursday, October 22, 2015


The selection of Lisa Reihana’s In Pursuit of Venus [infected] to represent New Zealand at the 2017 Venice Biennale will come as no surprise to its curator Auckland Art Gallery Director Rhana Devenport. The Auckland Art Gallery already had a lot invested  in the Reihana work and never has anyone put so much energy and lobbying power into an NZ Venice project. There must be a huge sense of satisfaction for Devenport who made it clear she thought the Reihana work was a slam dunk from the word go. Despite all that confidence, In Pursuit of Venus [infected] did have to climb over a few hurdles but as Creative NZ has already shown its rules and regulations when it comes to Venice are, to say the least, malleable. For all the talk of tweaking it into a new work, In Pursuit of Venus [infected] has been around for a long time in various iterations. To put it simply, it's unlikely that anyone who has seen the Reihana work in Auckland, Brisbane, Melbourne or Singapore will not recognise it in its Venice outing. So CNZ 'commissioning' an additional suite of photographs as 'new accompanying work' to try and take the heat off the 'new' issue feels kind of unnecessary.

Unusually Reihana doesn’t have dealer representation at a time when dealers are expected to front up with cash and cashed-up connections, but with Devenport bringing the resources of the Auckland Art Gallery that's well taken care of. Still, if you pop your head out of the window in Auckland you'll probably catch a dealer or two racing by to offer their services.

This is the first time the director of a major metropolitan gallery has stepped up as sponsoring curator. It's the third time we have chosen women as both curator and artist and Lisa Reihana is the third artist of Maori descent to represent us. As for the Brian Butler list being so prescient, forget we ever mentioned it.