Te Papa Welcomes Venice Biennale Piano to Collection

5 December 2011

Following its success at la Biennale di Venezia and seasons in Paris and Christchurch, He Korero Purakau mo te Awanui o te Motu: story of a New Zealand river by Michael Parekowhai will be welcomed into the national art collection in 2012.

He Korero Purakau mo te Awanui o Te Motu: story of a New Zealand river is an ornately-carved Steinway concert grand piano which formed the centrepiece of the New Zealand exhibition On first looking into Chapman’s Homer at the Venice Biennale earlier this year. Ten years in the making, it is perhaps Parekowhai’s most accomplished work yet.

Te Papa Board Chair Sir Wira Gardiner says the passion and storytelling of artist Michael Parekowhai are alive in the newly acquired piece. “He Korero Purakau mo Te Awanui o Te Motu: story of a New Zealand river is a beautiful melding of whakapapa or genealogy and artistic interpretation. These are the stories Te Papa is proud to share with all of our communities, and Michael Parekowhai has done New Zealand proud”.

He Korero Purakau mo Te Awanui o Te Motu : story of a New Zealand river was purchased for 1. 5 million dollars. 1. 3 million dollars has come from Te Papa’s acquisitions budget, the remainder is being found through fundraising. The Friends of Te Papa have made a generous contribution to the purchase as part of their regular gifting programme.

“This piece will form the centrepiece of Te Papa’s art exhibition programme next year. We’re excited about sharing this spectacular work with New Zealanders, starting with its display in the Christchurch Art Gallery, before we show it at Te Papa. And we’re also looking forward to hearing the beautiful music talented pianists will be playing on it” says Michael Houlihan, Chief Executive of Te Papa.

Michael Parekowhai is one of New Zealand's most important contemporary artists and is a leading practitoner of his generation. His output ranges from oversized children’s games and kit-sets, stuffed sparrows and rabbits, figures, photographs, light boxes and lavish custom-made musical instruments. The content of Parekowhai’s beautifully made work is complex. He investigates a range of intersecting and overlapping concerns, often with strong reference to art history, popular culture, cultural identity and politics, although overt political dimensions are often downplayed.

He Korero Purakau mo te Awanui o te Motu: story of a New Zealand river will go on display at the musée du quai Branly, Paris in February 2012, before returning to New Zealand and going on display at the Christchurch Art Gallery in mid 2012.