Art research

Publications and stories

Research areas

Te Papa’s art research informs our exhibitions, collection development, popular and scholarly publications, and educational and public programmes.

What we study

  • Artworks
  • Artists and makers
  • Art materials and processes
  • Art histories, traditions, and movements
  • The social and historical contexts of art production, exhibition, and reception
  • Art conservation and care

Our collection covers a broad spectrum, including fine art, photography, decorative art and design, taongataonga treasures, and other cultural practices – from historical to contemporary.

Indigenous art and cross-cultural focus

Māori and indigenous art of the Pacific are focuses of our research, and we recognise the influence of cross-cultural exchange in the arts. We also explore the multiple social roles the arts can play in different cultural contexts.

National and international focus

Our research is focused on art of Aotearoa New Zealand, the South Pacific, and the Pacific Rim. We seek to make connections between local practices and international movements and developments, such as Modernism.

We research the work of international artists held in Te Papa’s collections or related to temporary exhibitions.

Collection development and conservation

We take a research-based approach to collecting artworks, and we research new ways to preserve and care for all our collection items – from paintings to digital artworks.

Documentation and reflection

We document our artworks and analyse their use in Te Papa’s activities, such as exhibitions. We also examine the role of art within a bicultural and interdisciplinary museum.

Audience engagement

We work with other Te Papa teams to develop new ways to engage Te Papa’s audiences, through education initiatives and interpretation.

Research partnerships and advice

We collaborate with other art institutions, universities, and professional associations to research artists, artworks, and related topics. For example, Te Papa has a Memorandum of Understanding with Victoria University of Wellington. This partnership recognises the mutually beneficial research opportunities and resources across the two organisations.

We provide expert advice to government agencies, such as the Ministry for Culture and Heritage and Creative New Zealand, and to local, national, and international arts organisations.

We also assist other researchers, including students and publishers.

Experts

See our art experts in our list of curators