New Zealand artist in Venice

Lisa Reihana is an artist representing New Zealand at the Venice Biennale. Listen to Venice Art Biennale to hear more about this very important art festival.

Lisa Reihana’s art was opened yesterday by New Zealand’s Governor General, Dame Patsy Reddy. New Zealand’s official party travelled across the canal in a gondola with many people paddling so that it looked more like a Maori waka. Venice is built on canals.

Lisa’s art work is 24m long. It is called Pursuit of Venus (infected). Lisa based her painting on a French wallpaper design, created by Joseph Dufour in 1804. It showed a scene of Polynesian people with one or two white men. Lisa’s work features Captain Cook in Polynesia, maybe in New Zealand. One of the aims of Cook’s voyage was to observe the Transit of Venus in Tahiti in 1769 but after that, he sailed around New Zealand. Perhaps Lisa is suggesting the white men in both Dufour’s painting and in her work were the colonisers of the Polynesians. Maybe that’s why she used the word “infected”. Lisa is Maori.

Lisa has been working on this art work for several years. She has now used digital technologies to include sound and dance in this very big piece of work. Lynn Freeman of RNZ, who attended the opening of the exhibition, said that if the Biennale is the Olympic Games of contemporary art, Lisa Reihana deserves a gold medal.

For the first 3 days of the Biennale, around 30,000 artists, critics, journalists and important people will be present for the preview. After that, it is open to the public until the end of November.

Lisa’s work will travel to London and Paris before returning to New Zealand.

Here’s a report and photos from RNZ radionz at venice biennale


• canal – artificial river
• waka (Maori) – large canoe
• pursuit – chase
• infected – with a disease
• transit – crossing
• contemporary – art today, modern
• preview – an early view for a few important people
• critics – people who understand art, judge it and write about it