NZ finds great home for Venice Biennial   6 Jun 2012

Anna Blair

This week, the location of New Zealand’s pavilion at the 2013 Venice Biennial has been announced. Bill Culbert’s site-specific pieces will be installed at the Istituto Santa Maria della Pietà, often called La Pietà.

The Venice Biennial is one of the world’s largest art events. The city, which receives more tourists than it has residents, is compact but crowded, with events and exhibitions held throughout. Venice’s notorious difficulty to navigate, combined with the small amount of time most visitors have for the Biennial, cause placement to take on extreme significance.

Bill Culbert was announced last October as the artist to represent New Zealand at the Venice Biennial in 2013. Culbert is best known for his work exploring different forms of light. One of his site-specific neon installations, Fault, marks the façade of Wellington’s City Gallery.

The choice of Culbert, who left New Zealand for the United Kingdom in 1957, at 22, drew criticism that opportunity should be given to an artist resident in the country. Culbert, however, returns regularly to New Zealand to exhibit and has works in collections across the country. He remains well known in his homeland. In addition to Wellington’s Fault, Culbert has completed public commissions for Christchurch and Auckland.

While 30 countries have permanent pavilions, New Zealand is itinerant, seeking a temporary pavilion every two years. New Zealand has participated in the Venice Biennial since 2001. With only a small presence internationally, location is particularly important in ensuring foreign audiences see the work of NZ artists.

La Pietà is situated on the main thoroughfare linking Piazza San Marco with the Giardini Gardens. This location between Venice’s main square and the Giardini means that New Zealand’s pavilion will benefit immensely from foot traffic. In more obscure places, audiences are primarily been those who seek the pavilion out, as opposed to simply stumbling upon it.

This church, dating from 1761, housed the New Zealand pavilion in 2005, when collective et al. represented the country. Since then, La Pietà has been home to the Irish Pavilion.

In addition to impacting visitor numbers, location is also significant to the creation and display of artwork. Bill Culbert’s work for the Venice Biennial is to be site-specific, and La Pietà offers the artist an interesting space with which to work.

The exhibition spaces are both large and unique, and resonate with Venice’s strong historical identity. La Pietà is known particularly for its association with composer Antonio Vivaldi, who taught at the associated orphanage.

Michael Parekowhai’s ‘On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer’, shown last year, was presented beautifully at Palazzo Loredan dell'Ambasciatore. The intimacy of the setting tied beautifully to Parekowhai’s pieces, which are subtle and poetic, benefitting from sustained examination in a quieter setting. Palazzo Loredan dell'Ambasciatore is a private home tucked in a small street away from the main sites. New Zealand’s 2011 pavilion rewarded those who saw it and was critically well received, but the location meant visitor numbers were relatively low.

New Zealand’s return to a prominent site in 2013 is likely to afford the country greater international recognition at the Venice Biennial. Plans for Culbert’s project are not yet known, but most signs suggest the Biennial will be an excellent opportunity for the country to succeed on an international stage.

Anna Blair is a freelance writer and architectural historian studying hotels from the 1920s. She currently divides her time between Paris and East London. Further work can be found at her blogDispatches from Europe.

Add a comment

Bookmark and Share


Dynamic New Zealand writers to feature at this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival

20 Jul 2017 Arts
Dynamic New Zealand writers making waves at home and abroad will present their work and participate in this year’s Edinburgh... more

$9.4m to support students with English as a second language

26 Jun 2017 Education
22 June 2017 Students learning English as a second language will benefit from a further $9.4 million being made available under... more


Rocket launch a huge step for New Zealand’s space industry

25 May 2017 Business News
25 May 2017 Minister for Economic Development Simon Bridges has congratulated the team at Rocket Lab on the successful launch of... more

Increased investor confidence welcomed

29 May 2017 Business News
29 May 2017 Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Jacqui Dean today welcomed the Financial Markets Authority annual survey results... more


NZ's Sola Rosa heading "Back to You" in London - interview with Andrew Spraggon

6 Jul 2017 Entertainment By Charlotte Everett
Sola Rosa Soundsystem heads back to London with a show on 27 July – NZNewsUK London Editor Charlotte Everett caught up with... more

Spirit of “Mateship” prominent at London ANZAC commemorations

25 Apr 2017 ANZAC By Charlotte Everett
All photos copyright Peter Livingstone Photography. Lead image: HRH The Duke of York (far right), with the Hon Alexander Downer (far... more


New Zealand Housing Affordability Measure released

10 May 2017 Property
10 May 2017 The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s (MBIE) new Housing Affordability Measure will allow the market... more

NZ house prices gain 11% in October

14 Nov 2016 Property
Article - BusinessDesk Monday 14 November 2016 10:28 AM NZ house prices gain 11% in October, driven by sales of higher value homes By... more


Suspension of decision making authority

25 Apr 2017 Migration
24 April 2017Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse is taking steps to improve Immigration New Zealand’s decision making... more

Recognised Seasonal Employers employ more Kiwis

8 Feb 2017 Migration
7 Feb 2017 Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse welcomes a report showing the vast majority of employers who take on seasonal... more


International visitors projected to spend $15 billion

12 May 2017 Travel & Tourism
12 May 2017 New Zealand’s tourism sector is forecast to grow significantly over the next seven years, with international... more

Tourism spending continues rise in 2017

10 May 2017 Travel & Tourism
27 April 2017 Tourism spending by both international and domestic visitors continues to grow strongly in 2017, Acting Tourism Minister... more


SPECIAL LIMITED OFFER: Barbarians v NZ, Twickenham 4 Nov - £55 tickets, All Blacks Supporters Bay

20 Jul 2017 Rugby
In 2009 the Barbarian team had a phenomenal line up of world class players; Matt Giteau, Victor Matfield, George Smith, Jamie Roberts,... more


Gordon Campbell on the Gareth Morgan crusade

11 Nov 2016 Opinion
Column - Gordon Campbell   Gordon Campbell on the Gareth Morgan crusade First published on Werewolf more

Gordon Campbell on the US election outcome

10 Nov 2016 Opinion
Column - Gordon Campbell   Gordon Campbell on the US election outcome more

Kiwi Success

Law Commissioner appointed

29 May 2017 Appointments
29 May 2017 Former Secretary for Justice Belinda Clark has been appointed as Law Commissioner, Justice Minister Amy Adams announced... more

Spencer to be Acting Governor of Reserve Bank

8 Feb 2017 Appointments
7 Feb 2017 Finance Minister Steven Joyce will appoint current Deputy Reserve Bank Governor Grant Spencer as the Acting Governor of... more


Online job ads continue growing strongly

26 Jun 2017 Recruitment
23 June 2017 Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Paul Goldsmith says the latest Jobs Online report shows strong growth... more

New employment resource for young people

1 Mar 2017 Recruitment
28 Feb 2017 Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Paul Goldsmith and Associate Education Minister Louise Upston have... more