Rita Angus: New Zealand Modernist / He Ringatoi Hou o Aotearoa at Te Uru Waitakere Waitākere Contemporary Gallery, Auckland
This travelling exhibition shows 20 artworks by Rita Angus (1908-1970), one of New Zealand's most distinguished 20th-century artists. Angus was a significant contributor to the modern school of New Zealand art and produced a vast body of work spanning four decades.
See a range of Angus's art from throughout her life and career, with a specific focus on the themes of pacifism, feminism and nature, which greatly influenced the development of her artistic style. The artist’s bright and striking paintings are immediately recognisable, displayed as small-to-medium-scale framed works in the main gallery. She used clean lines and flat colour to finely depict her subjects, with the background usually set in the otherworldly landscapes around Aotearoa.
The show also includes a few of her most important works, including The Aviatrix (1933). This is one of Angus's earliest, and one of two recently acquired by Te Papa as part of the national art collection. It’s a brave portrait of her sister Edna, the first woman pilot in the East Coast Aero Club, sporting her flying costume. While the exhibition has already toured around the country, this is the first time it’s being shown in Auckland and is well worth the visit. On until April 30. 420 Titirangi Road, Auckland.
Te Whanga A Reipae, Wairau Māori Art Gallery, Whangārei
This exhibition features the work of six exceptional Māori artists who are making significant impacts in their fields. In a series of firsts, it not only celebrates the first anniversary of the world's first public Māori art gallery, but the first female curator for the gallery, Ngahuia Harrison, presenting her debut exhibition.
The theme is inspired by the story of twin sisters, princesses Reitū and Reipae, the Waikato-Tainui tūpuna who it is said were flown on the back of a kārearea (falcon) to Te Tai Tokerau (Northland) and married to husbands of the Northland iwi there. The show highlights the connection between these two regions, not only through the whakapapa of the artists involved – but also through the common interests that inspire their work. You’ll find earthen ceramics by Tracy Keith and Amorangi Hikuroa displayed on plinths around the gallery, several paintings by Aroha Gossage, Star Gossage and Raukura Turei, as well as video works by Jeremy Leatinu'u.
At a time when Treaty settlements often bring up contentious issues, these artists emphasise connections that unite us rather than drive us apart. Their work aims to establish or renew connections between individuals and communities, between language and land.
Gallery tip: Admission to the gallery is through the Hundertwasser Art Centre. The admission fee is $25 (adult ticket) and gets you admission to both galleries. You can book tickets in advance, with discounted rates offered to Whangārei residents. On until July 2. 2 Quayside, Town Basin, Whangārei.
Unhinged: Opening the Door to the Dowse Collection, The Dowse Art Museum, Lower Hutt
Whimsical paintings, beautifully crafted contemporary glass, captivating ballet costumes and a pyramid of cats are all part of Unhinged. The playful exhibition includes a dizzying array of more than 1000 bizarre and fascinating works and objects from the Dowse art collection. It is part of a major Dowse Art Museum project to refurbish its collection storage spaces and help look at new ways of caring for and preserving its collection into the future.
The show is unique and entertaining, with well-known favourites and overlooked treasures from the museum’s extensive collection. Visitors of all ages can encounter the museum's most remarkable pieces, which cover the entire ground floor of the gallery across 10 individually themed areas. There are well-known works by Colin McCahon and Dale Chihuly, intricate ballet costumes and headdresses worn by Sir Jon Trimmer in the 1985 Royal New Zealand Ballet production of Swan Lake, and more.
You are encouraged to wander through the multiple galleries in your own time – there are also customised self-guided tours as well as guided tours that help uncover the significance of certain works. The show is a fresh and brilliant way to make the museum’s collection accessible and share it with the public of Aotearoa. On until August 13. 45 Laings Road, Lower Hutt.
Ans Westra 1936-2023 & Mataaho Collective: Te Puni Aroaro at Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington
Don’t miss these two exhibitions on your next trip to Te Papa. One, on level 5, pays homage to the life and work of Dutch-born photographer Ans Westra, who passed away this February at the age of 86. As one of the most celebrated documentary photographers in Aotearoa, she chronicled the daily lives of New Zealanders – in particular Māori communities – in her 60-year career. Her objective was to depict people in a truthful way, leading to candid images of everyday human experiences. A strong selection of framed photographic portraits lines the gallery walls, while a display of her published (and historically controversial) photobooks are included in the centre of the gallery. It’s an enlightening overview of her remarkable contributions to this country’s field of photography.
Wander down to Te Papa’s level 4 to see quintessentially impressive installations by Mata Aho Collective. The group, comprising four talented female Māori artists, has worked together for the last decade to create monumental installations all over the world. In this groundbreaking show, Erena Baker, Sarah Hudson, Bridget Reweti and Terri Te Tau have used industrial materials to create six works of staggering scale and complexity. Each one is housed in its own gallery, and explores the evolution of customary Māori textile and fibre practices. Their largest work to date, Takapau, was created especially for Te Papa and comprises six kilometres of polyester hi-vis tie-downs, crisscrossing over and under itself to form a 200-square-metre-wide weaving covering the ceiling. These installations provide a space to reflect on the interconnectedness of Māori culture and contemporary art. Ans Westra 1936-2023 is on until September 17. Mataaho Collective – Te Puni Aroaro is on until late 2023. 55 Cable Street, Wellington.
Anita Tótha is an art consultant working between New York and Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland.