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Contemporary focus

New Zealand at the Venice Biennale 2009

This exhibition is now closed.

This exhibition presents the artists and their works that represented New Zealand last year at the Venice Biennale in Italy, the world’s most prestigious contemporary art event.

They are Judy Millar’s Giraffe-Bottle-Gun, curated by Leonhard Emmerling (St Paul Street Gallery, Auckland), and Francis Upritchard’s Save Yourself, curated by Heather Galbraith (City Gallery, Wellington) and Francesco Manacorda (Barbican Art Gallery, London). 

On display from 26 February to 15 August 2010.

About the Works

Bone Dancer, 2009, by Francis Upritchard
Bone Dancer, 2009
by Francis Upritchard
Photograph by Anna Arca,
courtesy of Kate MacGarry, London
Giraffe-Bottle-Gun, 2009, by Judy Millar
Giraffe-Bottle-Gun, 2009
by Judy Millar.

Installation view La Maddalena
Photograph by Hans-Georg Gaul

Judy Millar’s Giraffe-Bottle-Gun features computer scanned and enlarged paintings printed on billboard vinyl fitted onto shaped stretchers. In Venice, the works were displayed in the neo-classical circular church La Maddalena. In creating and installing the work, the artist responded to this site, and to the historical and cultural background of Venice.

The towering canvases fill the exhibition space, playing with scale and directing the view and the movement in the space. Millar’s enlarged and digitised pieces deliberately question what painting can and might be. Their shape and machine-made surfaces challenge the viewer to respond to their authenticity as paintings.

Francis Upritchard’s Save Yourself looks both to the past and to the future.Upritchard drew on art history and popular culture to create works that are curious hybrids. Save Yourself brings together three surreal groupings of figures, lamps, and painted tree stumps on specially made tables.

In Venice Upritchard’s works were displayed in the chambers of the neo-Palladian Palazzo Mangilli-Valmarana, overlooking the Grand Canal in Venice. Upritchard placed the tables against the antique mirrors that were in the rooms, so that the strange tableaux were reflected. Her figures are dancers, dreamers, searchers absorbed in their own reveries. They are idiosyncratic figures that she has described as ‘holy fools’.

The works at Te Papa

In Venice, both artists’ projects responded directly to their sites, the ornate interiors, and the existing artworks that are characteristic of Biennale venues. At Te Papa, the works will be viewed quite differently. They will transform, and be transformed by, their placement within the high stud Level 5 gallery spaces.


Previous contemporary focus:
John Reynolds' Cloud
Aspects of Abstraction
Kura kura Ngāi Tahu

Learn more

Venice Biennale official website

NZ at Venice Biennale 2009 website

NZ at Venice Biennale blog

Judy Millar works in our collections

Francis Upritchard works in our collections


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