Robin White: Something is Happening Here

Edited by Sarah Farrar, Jill Trevelyan and Nina Tonga

Publication: May 2022
Pages: 304
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 978-0-9951384-3-8

RRP: $70
Buy Robin White: Something is Happening Here

Robin White: Something is happening Here is the first book to be devoted to Robin White’s art in 40 years. Its assessment of her remarkable 50 years as an artist includes fresh perspectives by 24 writers and interviewees from Australia, the Pacific and Aotearoa New Zealand and celebrates her status as one of our most important artists.

Including more than 150 of her artworks, from early watercolour and drawings through to the exquisite recent collaborations with Pacific artists, as well as photographs from throughout Robin White’s career, this book captures the life of a driven, bold, much-loved artist whose practice engages with the world and wrestles with its complexities.


  • Shortlisted for the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards 2023 – Booksellers Aotearoa New Zealand Award for Illustrated Non-Fiction. From the judges:
    “This is more than an exhibition turned art book. Stunning reproductions, historical essays and the insights of two dozen contributors do justice to the institution that is Robin White. As iconic screenprints flow seamlessly into large format barkcloth, White’s border-crossing practice is temporally divided with the savvy use of typographic spreads. Space, too, is given to the voices of her Kiribati, Fijian and Tongan collaborators. Strikingly elegant yet comprehensive, excellence is what’s happening here.”

  • Shortlisted for the NZ Booklovers Award for Best Lifestyle Book 2023. Judges’ comments: “Although its publication coincided with the exhibition of the same title, this book is compelling in its own right … This beautiful hardback art book demonstrates the power of art to honour the community, acknowledge history and address current social issues.”

Review highlights

  • Art News, Autumn 2023, reviewed by Connie Brown. “The book is as expansive as its subject’s practice … an essential text on the artist and the varied environments from which she drew constant inspiration.”

  • New Zealand Geographic, by Catherine Woulfe

  • Selected as one of Newsroom’s best illustrated books of 2022 by Steve Braunias.

  • Art New Zealand, reviewed by Don Abbott. “The show is so compelling that a good proportion of visitors will be inspired to invest in the book of the same name … It will be a wise investment. … Reading the book is as close to a multimedia experience that the printed page can produce.”

  • Scoop, reviewed by Howard Davis.

  • The Listener’s Best Books of 2022. “This books is so well designed and constructed that the text and reproductions perfectly convey the complex intertwinings of the artist’s life and art in a clear, compelling way.”

  • The Burlington Magazine (No. 164, November 2022), reviewed by Mark Stocker. “This handsomely illustrated associated book provides a personal and scholarly record of the artist and her career, interspersed with the responses of curators, scholars, collaborators and friends.”

  • Newsroom’s Book of the Week, including a review by Andrew Wood of “the year’s best illustrated book”, Steve Braunias on Robin White’s collaboration with Sam Hunt, extracts from Justin Paton on Fish and Chips, Maketu and Robin White on her religious faith.

  • Newsroom, reviewed by Steve Braunias on the week’s bestselling books (10 June, 2022). “Everyone concerned with this beautiful illustrated book about the life and career of one of our greatest living artists – the three authors, the publisher and their team, and White herself – ought to take a bow. It's a really first-class, luscious book.”

  • Unity Books, Wellington. “The words in this great big gorgeous book of art are just as good as the pictures, just as clear and bright and accessible.”

  • RNZ Nine to Noon, reviewed by Anne Else. “One of the most satisfying and beautifully done books about a New Zealand artist that I have ever come across.”

  • Sunday Star Times feature, by Sarah Catherall.

  • New Zealand Arts Review, reviewed by John Daly-Peoples. “… greatly expanding the reader’s appreciation of the artist’s work … a beautiful production.”


  • Playing Favourites with Dame Robin White on Radio New Zealand.

  • TVNZ Breakfast, interviewed by John Campbell. “[Robin White is a] person who has really shaped the way we see ourselves, and what those of us who didn’t know better might understand as art. And a person whose curiosity and passion and brilliance gave us art that could only come from her and from here. Dame Robin is celebrated in this gorgeous book… I can’t recommend it highly enough.”

About the authors

Dr Sarah Farrar is a curator and writer based in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. She is currently the head of the curatorial department at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki where she is responsible for the curatorial, research library and archives, learning, and public programmes teams. Sarah’s doctoral research examines strategies of curatorial activism in local and international art galleries and museums. For 20 years she has curated exhibitions and contributed to art publications, including books, catalogues, and journal articles, in Aotearoa, Australia, the Netherlands, Belgium, China, and the UK. Sarah’s research interests in the complexities and strengths of cross-cultural exchange and collaboration, along with her motivation to see senior women artists duly acknowledged, have drawn her to Robin White’s work.

Jill Trevelyan is a Wellington art historian and curator. She is the editor of Rita Angus: An Artist’s Life (Te Papa Press, 2021), Toss Woollaston: A Life in Letters (Te Papa Press, 2004), and the co-author of Rita Angus: Live to Paint & Paint to Live (Random House, 2001). Her biography of Peter McLeavey won the Book of the Year award at the 2014 New Zealand Post Book Awards.

Dr Nina Tonga is Curator Contemporary Art at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. She is from the villages of Vaini and Kolofo’ou in the Kingdom of Tonga and was born and raised in New Zealand. Nina has been involved in a number of writing and curatorial projects in New Zealand and the wider Pacific and was Curator of the Honolulu Biennial 2019. Her exhibitions include Home AKL (2012) at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, Tonga i Onopooni (2014) at Pataka Art + Museum, Tīvaevae: Out of the Glory Box (2015) and Pacific Sisters: Fashion Activists (2018-2019) at Te Papa.

Publication: May 2022
Pages: 304
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 978-0-9951384-3-8

RRP: $70
Buy Robin White: Something is Happening Here