‘Art is a vital part of our lives’: Jacinda Ardern to open Toi Art

Fri 9 Mar 2018

Toi Art, New Zealand’s spectacular new art gallery, will be officially opened by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern here on Friday 16 March.

The new $8.4 million art gallery spans two levels of the museum and is part of a major renewal of all of our exhibition spaces.

Ms Ardern says the new gallery is a landmark for art in New Zealand.

“Toi Art is all about the fact that art is for everyone, and I believe every New Zealander will find something here that speaks to them, something to amaze and challenge them,” says Ms Ardern.

“Art is a vital part of our lives. It is fantastic that as a free, family-friendly experience, the new gallery will make it more accessible to more people.”

A man stands looking at a red wall featuring paintings hung in the salon style


The portrait wall in Tūrangawaewae: Art and New Zealand, 2018. Photograph by Michael O’Neill. Te Papa

The gallery is free to enter, and opens to the public at 10am on Saturday 17 March. As well as art exhibitions it offers hands-on art activities for children, and interactive experiences like a virtual reality visit to an artist’s studio.

A significant new project by leading contemporary artist Michael Parekowhai takes on the first space of the new art gallery. 

Toi Art also opens with two major retrospective shows, Pacific Sisters: Fashion Activists and Lisa Walker: I want to go to my bedroom but I can’t be bothered, and two exhibitions showcasing the national art collection, alongside nine new artworks and installations.

Beloved works from the national collection will also be on show, including paintings by C.F. Goldie, Gottfried Lindauer, Rita Angus, Ralph Hotere, Colin McCahon, Gordon Walters, and Robyn Kahukiwa.

Head of Art, Charlotte Davy says the new gallery offers incredible new opportunities.

“Toi Art is a game changer for art in New Zealand. The vast new entrance gallery is larger than any space at Te Papa, and will enable us to showcase works that have never been seen before,” says Ms Davy.

“There’ll be performance, dance, fashion, film, music, large-scale and new immersive works on show, which is now made possible by the size of the new gallery spaces.”

The new Warren and Mahoney-designed gallery has 35% more floor space for art here, with flexible gallery spaces to show large-scale and immersive new works.

Principal Architect Katherine Skipper says the gallery has been designed to welcome people into the space, and to encourage them to engage with art.

The opening weekend (17–18 March) will welcome people into Toi Art, with a programme of free events and performances – including a free Saturday night gig in the gallery headlined by LA-based musician Chelsea Jade and rising Auckland electronica stars SoccerPractise.



Tiffany Singh, Indra’s bow (installation view), 2016–2018. Photograph by Maarten Holl. Te Papa

Exhibitions opening in Toi Art include:

Toi Art will also open with new works by contemporary artists from around the country – including Helen Calder, Lonnie Hutchison, Janet Lilo, Jeena Shin, Tiffany Singh, Ngataihauru Taepa, and Sopolemalama Filipe Tohi.

The new gallery is an NZD$8.4 million investment in art here at Te Papa, which includes a grant from the Lottery Environment and Heritage Fund.

The new art gallery is the first of a series of changes to the museum, as we transform our 20-year-old permanent exhibits over the coming years. We will remain open throughout the changes. 

Toi Art: By the numbers

  • 2 levels of art
  • 5 new exhibitions
  • 10 new artworks made for the opening
  • $8.4 million investment in the new art gallery
  • 3,980m2 floor area of Toi Art
  • 35% more space for art
  • 40,000 artworks in the national art collection
  • 74 km wall length needed to display entire national art collection (direct flight from Wellington to Blenheim)
  • 150,000 photographs in Te Papa’s collection
  • 40 new acquisitions to the national art collection
  • 45 natural materials in Tiffany Singh’s new work Indra’s bow – including dried plums, rosebuds, dragon’s blood and blue peas
  • 1.5 million visitors to Te Papa per year
  • 16,000 hours works by builders on the new gallery
  • 38,000 nails used to build Toi Art
  • 142,290 screws
  • 30 tonnes steel
  • 20 km timber