Te Papa and Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki launch retrospective of celebrated Aotearoa artist Dame Robin White

Robin White, I am doing the washing in the bathroom. 3. From: Beginners’ guide to Gilbertese, 1983, woodcut. Purchased 1983 with Ellen Eames Collection funds. Te Papa (1983-0015-1/3-5)

Te Papa and Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki are delighted to open the retrospective exhibition of contemporary Aotearoa artist Dame Robin White (b.1946, Ngāti Awa, Pāhekā) on Saturday 4 June.

Robin White: Te Whanaketanga | Something is happening here runs until 18 September at Te Papa before opening at Auckland Art Gallery on 29 October 2022. Entry is free. The 50 works on display span White’s incredible 50-year career.

It has been 20 years since New Zealanders have had the opportunity to view such a wide selection of White’s work. Exhibition co-curators Dr Nina Tonga and Dr Sarah Farrar say the exhibition recognises a contemporary New Zealand artist whose imagery continues to shape the country’s national identity and sense of place.

“New Zealand is a Pacific island. It’s a reality that’s gradually dawning on us. And all of us who’ve come from here have come over the ocean. The European mentality is the ocean is a barrier but in the Pacific, it’s your pathway to the rest of the world,” says Robin White.

“Living, working and travelling across the Pacific and her experiences of working collaboratively with artists in Aotearoa, Fiji, Tonga and Japan, have shaped White’s art practice” says Farrar.

Visitors in Te Whanganui-a-Tara and Tāmaki Makaurau will see White’s celebrated portraits and Aotearoa landscapes from the 1970s displayed along with the ambitious collaborative works White has made with artists from across the Pacific and New Zealand in recent years.

Tonga says the exhibition aims to capture the intellectual curiosity and sense of purpose that has fueled White’s work for the last fifty years.

“Across the exhibition we have charted the frequent innovations in her practice as she has responded to her changing environment from her early wood-block prints to her most recent tapa works made in collaboration with Tongan artists Ruha and Ebonie Fifita and Fijian artist Tamari Cabeikanacea.”

“Working collectively is incredibly empowering”, says White. Long-term collaborator, Tongan New Zealand artist Ruha Fifita, describes their approach as grounded in “a deep love and respect for the creative process and a commitment to making work that ‘says something important’.”[SF2]

Te Whanaketanga | Something is happening here builds on over a decade of research by art historian and writer Jill Trevelyan and exhibition co-curators Dr Nina Tonga, Curator, Contemporary Art at Te Papa, and Dr Sarah Farrar, Head of Curatorial and Learning at Auckland Art Gallery.

The exhibition also celebrates the release of publication, Robin White: Something is happening here, jointly published by Te Papa Press and Auckland Art Gallery, which was released in May. Edited by Sarah Farrar, Jill Trevelyan and Nina Tonga, the book includes fresh perspectives by twenty-four writers and interviewees from Australia, the Pacific, and Aotearoa New Zealand.

Te Whanaketanga | Something is happening here will be on show at Te Papa from 4 June – 18 September 2022, followed by Auckland Art Gallery from late-October 2022.


Notes to editors

Key facts:

  • The exhibition will feature more than 50 works from across White’s 50-year career. This includes 17 paintings, and 35 individual prints.

  • Six collaborators

  • 22 different lenders

  • It’s been 54 years since Robin White’s first exhibition. Her first group show was in 1968, and her first one-person show was in 1970.

Images and credits

View and download artwork images
View and download exhibition photos

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Media contact

Sasha Borissenko, Communications Advisor