Te Papa’s new art gallery a game changer for art in New Zealand

Toi Art, New Zealand’s spectacular new art gallery, will be officially opened by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at Te Papa on Friday 16 March, 6.30pm.

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

Ms Ardern says the new art gallery at Te Papa 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.”

“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,” says Ms Ardern.

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.

Evan Williams, Chairman of the Te Papa Board, says Toi Art is a new home for New Zealand art, and a place where all visitors can find something to enjoy.

“Toi Art will showcase iconic works from the national art collection, alongside new art created especially for this space.”

“As holders of the national art collection, we are uniquely placed to tell the story of art in New Zealand, and this new space offers the chance to do just that,” says Mr Williams.

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.

Charlotte Davy, Te Papa Head of Art, 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.”

“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,” says Ms Davy.

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

Warren and Mahoney 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.

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 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 Te Papa transforms its 20 year old permanent exhibits over the coming years. Te Papa 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

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


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*Please ensure artworks and photos are accompanied by image credits. To ensure copyright terms are not breached, do not crop, overlay or edit artworks.

Image credits

From Pacific Sisters: Fashion Activists

  • Pacific Sisters, Ani O'Neill, Niwhai Tupaea, Rosanna Raymond, Suzanne Tamaki, 21st sentry cyber sister, 1997, Tapa (bark cloth), feathers, bone, harakeke (New Zealand flax), nylon, shells, seeds, coconut shell, videotape, plastic. Te Papa

  • Niwhai Tupaea, Central Church, Beresford Square, Auckland, 1993. Photograph by and courtesy of Vivienne Haldane

From Lisa Walker: I want to go to my bedroom but I can’t be bothered

  • Lisa Walker in her studio, 2017. Photograph by Kate Whitley. Te Papa

  • Lisa Walker, Pendant, 2010, plastic, lacquer, thread. Te Papa

From Kaleidoscope: Abstract Aotearoa

  • Tiffany Singh, Indra's bow, 2018 (detail). Photograph by Maarten Holl. Te Papa

  • Tiffany Singh installing Indra’s bow, 2018. Photograph by Kate Whitley. Te Papa

  • Reuben Paterson, Te Pūtahitanga ō Rehua, 2005 (still), digital video. Gift of the artist, 2011. Te Papa

  • Richard Killeen, Pacific plywood, 1977, oil on plywood. Te Papa

From Tūrangawaewae: Art and New Zealand

  • Tūrangawaewae: Art and New Zealand, exhibition view, 2018. Photograph by Michael O’Neill. Te Papa

  • Janet Lilo, Top16, 2007-18 (detail). Photograph by Maarten Holl. Te Papa

  • Janet Lilo and curator Nina Tonga, exhibition view of Top16, 2007-18. Photograph by Kate Whitley. Te Papa

Te Papa team

  • Charlotte Davy, Te Papa Head of Art.

  • Sarah Farrar, Te Papa Senior Art Curator and lead curator for Kaleidoscope: Abstract Aotearoa and Tūrangawaewae: Art and New Zealand (Curatorial team: Megan Tamati-Quennell and Nina Tonga).

  • Nina Tonga, Te Papa Curator Pacific Art and curator of Pacific Sisters: Fashion Activists.

  • Justine Olsen, Te Papa Curator Decorative Arts and Design and curator of Lisa Walker: I want to go to my bedroom but I can’t be bothered.

  • Megan Tamati-Quennell, Te Papa Curator Modern and Contemporary Māori art, and curator of Détour by Michael Parekowhai (no image available).