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Contemporary Pacific Art


Contemporary Pacific Art, Gallery 3.3 GoMA installation view featuring Michael Parekowhai's The Horn of Africa 2006


Sima Urale | Samoa/New Zealand b.1968 | O Tamaiti (still) 1996 | 35mm film and Betacam SP: 15 minutes, black and white, stereo | Purchased 2004. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation Grant | Collection: Queensland Art Gallery

Contemporary Pacific Art, GoMA

Contemporary Pacific Art, Gallery 3.3 GoMA installation view featuring Michael Parekowhai's The Horn of Africa 2006


Sima Urale
Samoa/New Zealand  b.1968
O Tamaiti (still) 1996
35mm film and Betacam SP: 15 minutes, black and white, stereo
Purchased 2004. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation Grant
Collection: Queensland Art Gallery
Banner image:
John Pule | Kulukakina (after experiencing something miraculous, withdraw) (detail) 2004 | Oil and ink on canvas | Purchased 2004. The Queensland Government's Queensland Gallery of Modern Art Acquisitions Fund | Collection: Queensland Art Gallery

Contemporary Pacific Art

The Queensland Art Gallery’s collection of contemporary Pacific art is the broadest in Australia. With the development of the Asia Pacific Triennials in the early 1990s, the Gallery recognised the importance of addressing the Pacific and has been actively developing the collection since. With the creation of a designated curatorial position in 2002, the breadth of this collection area has expanded significantly.

The contemporary Pacific art collection showcases key artists from the region, with an emphasis on New Zealand, and reflects the diversity of its contemporary art as well as its innovation in customary practices. The collection includes paintings, prints and drawings, sculpture, photography, contemporary installations, textiles, weaving, body adornment, video and film, and is primarily composed of works post 1970.

Works have been acquired across Polynesia, Micronesia and Melanesia with the earliest examples being a bequest of Papuan artists’ work in 1972. These included paintings and prints by senior artists such as Mathias Kauage and Akis. Recently, a portfolio of some of the earliest prints (based on paintings and drawings) by Papua New Guinean artists was donated with a number of works by the influential Marie Taita Aihi. These bold and vibrant works date back to 1968, with many examples created by artists interned at the Laloki Mental Hospital in Port Moresby. This area is also represented by a select group of barkcloths created in the Omie region of Papua New Guinea. These textiles evidence a rich cultural heritage and innovative practice. The works are inextricably linked to the artists’ beliefs and social systems, as well as to local history and give a strong sense of place. At the same time the designs and colours on these superb barkcloths are highly contemporary and allow for intricate dialogue with other works in the Pacific collection.

One of the most interesting facets of this collection is its aim to engage directly with the region, unmediated by major urban art centres and organisations.

Textiles are one of the strengths in the collection. A small selection of weavings from Yap, Palau and Marshall Islands form the core holdings, with the Gallery continuing to build a focused group of textiles and weavings from Polynesia that acknowledge the ubiquity and importance of these practices for Pacific people. Importantly, these textiles display Pacific Islanders’ use of novel materials and ideas such as the introduction of coloured wool in weavings. Examples from Fiji, the Cook Islands, Tonga, Samoa, Tahiti and Hawai’i share common themes of nationalism and faith. A particularly notable textile is that by Tahitian tifaifai (quilt) maker Aline Amaru, who represents members of her country’s ruling dynasty, chronicling the last of the Pomare royal family and the introduction of Christianity in her country.

With a particular focus on contemporary works from New Zealand, emphasis has been given to collecting works by significant Maori and Pacific Islander artists such as Lisa Reihana, Michael Parekowhai, Michel Tuffery, Shane Cotton, Sofia Tekela-Smith, Robin White and John Pule. A generous donation by John Pule of his own work has enabled the Gallery to have the most comprehensive representation of this artist’s work outside of New Zealand. Works by Maori and Pacific Islanders born or living in New Zealand address issues of indigeneity in various ways. In turn, this enables a more complex reading of the wider Pacific, its history and current issues.

Art works created in New Zealand that have a direct engagement with the wider Pacific allow for strong connections with the rest of this collection. A notable example is Julian Hooper’s ‘Liliu’ 2007 series, comprising 38 mixed-media works that form a compelling narrative of European experiences of the Pacific. Hooper’s use of barkcloth as a schematic device for parts of ‘Liliu’ allows for synergies with other works of this same medium. Similarly, ‘Man in a canoe with land’ 2001 by Richard Killeen consists of 52 small powder-coated aluminium paintings that are suggestive of multiple narratives — of location, nature, and history. They irresistibly call forth associations with voyages, exploration and the South Seas, and particularly within a period of European colonisation as suggested by the title.

Contemporary photography from New Zealand is represented by a number of key women artists such as Anne Noble, Lisa Reihana, Fiona Pardington and Yvonne Todd. These are accompanied by works by Michael Parekowhai and Gavin Hipkins and supported by senior photographers such as Peter Peryer, Laurence Aberhart, Boyd Webb and Mark Adams.

Moving image is well represented, encompassing established and emerging video artists such as James Oram, Campbell Patterson, Nathan Pohio, Lisa Reihana and Sriwhana Spong. Artists such as Samoan/Maori artist Lonnie Hutchinson are represented both by installation work and by moving image, and the work of Samoan filmmaker Sima Urale is also represented, reflecting the Gallery’s film program via the Gallery of Modern Art’s Cinémathèque.

Maud Page
Curator, Contemporary Pacific Art, Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art
The images on this web page are indicative of works that are part of the Collection. Visitors are advised to contact the Gallery in advance of a visit to find out if a particular work is on display.

Gordon Darling Foundation

Selected Collection Highlights

Gussie R Bento Na Kalaunu a me Na Kāhili o Kamehamaha IV (The Kāhili and Crowns of Kamehameha IV) c.1980

Kende Kusa Kina shell necklace 1980s

Mathias Kauage Man daravim elikopta (Man flying a helicopter) c.1980

Aline Amaru La Famille Pomare (tifaifai) (Pa'oti style) 1991

Boyd Webb Nonage 1995

Richard Killeen Mickey of Ulladulla 1995

Sima Urale O Tamaiti 1996

Susana Kaafi Fala pati (Mat) 1997

Gavin Hipkins Auckland (Mount Eden) (from ‘The Homely’ series) 1997–2000

Michel Tuffery Povi tau vaga (The challenge) 1999

Lisa Reihana Dandy (from ‘Digital Marae’ series) 2007

Sofia Tekela-Smith Untitled (from 'Lovely hula hands' series) 2002

John Pule Kulukakina (after experiencing something miraculous, withdraw) 2004

Michael Stevenson The gift (from ‘Argonauts of the Timor Sea’) 2004–06

Michel Rangie Mague ne sagran (ranking black palm) grade 4 painted c.2005

David Kolin Weet-bix boy 2006

Michael Parekowhai The Horn of Africa 2006

Shane Cotton Red Shift 2006–07

Julian Hooper Flight (from ‘Liliu’ series) 2007

Fiona Pardington Uncanny Tui/Kakahu, from the collection 'Whanganui Museum' 2008

Yvonne Todd Alice Bayke 2008

Robin White, Leba Toki and Bale Jione Teitei vou (A new garden) 2009

Kulupu Falehanga ‘i Teleiloa Ngatu tā’uli 2011