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  • Sep 17, 2019

Yuki Kihara to Represent New Zealand at 59th Venice Biennale

On September 16, the Arts Council of New Zealand Toi Aotearoa announced Japanese-Samoan interdisciplinary artist Yuki Kihara as New Zealand’s representative artist for the 59th Venice Biennale, slated to open in May 2021. Kihara is the first artist of Pacific descent to be selected for the New Zealand Pavilion, which will be curated by Natalie King in the forthcoming edition.

Kihara is known for her photographic, video, and performance projects exploring postcolonialism and intersectional approaches to race, gender, and spirituality in the Pacific context. Kihara’s solo show “Living Photographs” was staged at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2008, and the artist has also participated in group exhibitions including the Asia Pacific Triennial (2015), the Honolulu Biennial (2017), and the Bangkok Art Biennale (2018). As part of her current research fellowship at The National Museums of World Cultures in the Netherlands, Kihara will hold a solo exhibition titled “Going Native” at Amsterdam’s Tropemuseum in June 2020.  

King is a curator, editor, and Enterprise Professorial Fellow at Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne. She is currently working on an exhibition at the Tokyo Museum of Photography as part of the 2020 Tokyo Cultural Olympiad. Previously, she curated Tracey Moffatt’s exhibition for the Australian pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale. 

Kihara’s proposal was chosen from 17 submissions. The selection panel was chaired by Michael Moynahan and composed of New Zealand artist Lisa Reihana; Karl Chitham, director of Dowse Art Museum, Wellington; Nina Tonga, curator of Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington; Mami Kataoka, chief curator of Mori Art Museum, Tokyo; Jenny Gibbs, commissioner for New Zealand’s 2019 Venice Biennale presentation; Leigh Melville, head of New Zealand at Venice Patrons; Christina Barton, director of Adam Art Gallery, Wellington; Remco de Blaaij, director of Artspace, Auckland; and art critic Anthony Byrt.

“Yuki has built a strong reputation for work that is engaging, visually striking and topical,” Moynahan remarked. “Her presentation will speak to the shared histories between Aotearoa and the Pacific, illuminating alternative voices through a focus on Yuki’s homeland Sāmoa.”

Kihara commented: “The glass ceiling has been shattered. This moment is so much bigger than me, especially for the Pacific art community.”

The 2021 exhibition is funded by Creative New Zealand, whose financial commitment is NZD 800,000 (USD 506,400) over two financial years.

Dane Mitchell’s solo exhibition “Post Hoc” for the 58th Venice Biennale is currently on view until November 24. 

Lauren Long is ArtAsiaPacific’s news and web editor.

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