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Robin White exhibition to open at Te Papa

Robin White (left) and Tamari Cabeikanacea (right) in Fiji, 2019. Photo by Michael O’Neill. Te Papa.

Exhibition celebrating artist Robin White set to open at Te Papa and Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, Manatū Taonga, 5 April 2022

Te Papa media release

In 2022, Te Papa and Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki will come together to jointly present a retrospective exhibition of contemporary Aotearoa artist Dame Robin White (b.1946, Ngāti Awa, Pāhekā).

Robin White: Te Whanaketanga | Something is Happening Here will open in June 2022 at Te Papa followed by Auckland Art Gallery in late-October 2022. The exhibition will feature more than 70 works from across White’s 50-year career.

Visitors in Te Whanganui-a-Tara and Tāmaki Makaurau will not only explore her celebrated portraits and Aotearoa landscapes from the 1970s but also the ambitious collaborative works White has made with artists from across the Pacific and New Zealand in recent years.

White says the exhibition is somewhat of a ‘family reunion’ – bringing together works from galleries and living rooms across the country.

“None of the works have come from my studio, they have been out in the world engaging with people and people engaging with them. Each work brings to the exhibition stories that are known only to that work and the people with whom they have lived. There is a richness in that, it is way beyond me,” says White.

A project of national importance, Te Whanaketanga | Something is Happening Here builds on over a decade of research by art historian and writer Jill Trevelyan and the exhibition’s co-curators Dr Nina Tonga, Curator Contemporary Art at Te Papa, and Dr Sarah Farrar, Head of Curatorial and Learning at Auckland Art Gallery.

Dr Nina Tonga says the exhibition recognises a contemporary New Zealand artist whose imagery continues to shape the country’s national identity and a sense of place in Aotearoa and in the Pacific.

“With a prolific career spanning five decades she continues to create artworks that invite us into the world around her; the local fish and chip shop in Maketu, maneaba in Kiribati, or the intimate interior of a living room in Lautoka,” she says. “As an artist, she has sustained an energy and attitude for learning that we are celebrating in this exhibition.”

Dr Sarah Farrar notes the significance of White as an artist, creating some of the country’s most recognisable artworks and how this exhibition draws on the central role that relationships play – in the art works as well as the artistic process.

“Robin White’s works, increasingly made in collaboration with other artists, urge us to reflect on how we want to live together in the world today. This exhibition brings timely recognition, and scholarly attention, to one of Aotearoa’s foremost artists,” she says.

The exhibition is supported by an accompanying publication, Robin White: Something is Happening Here, jointly published by Te Papa Press and Auckland Art Gallery, due to be released in May 2022. Edited by Sarah Farrar, Jill Trevelyan, and Nina Tonga, the book includes fresh perspectives by 24 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.

Key facts

  • The exhibition will feature more than 70 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.
Council of Australasian Museum Directors c/o Lynley Crosswell, Museums Victoria, GPO Box 666, Melbourne VIC 3001, © CAMD 2023
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