Rau rangatira mā, e kui mā, e koro mā, e huihui nei, tēnei aku mihi māhana ki a koutou.
Nau mai, haere mai ra ki Te Whare Kawana o Te Whanganui-a-Tara.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, warm greetings to you all, and welcome to Government House Wellington.
This afternoon we were delighted to host a fascinating forum for young and emerging artists from around New Zealand.
This evening brings together people from across the arts sector – academics, teachers, and commentators; funders and supporters; and above all, artists.;
I like to think that Government House is just the place for such a gathering.
At Government House, we host people from all walks of life, who congregate here to celebrate service, achievement and excellence.
On such occasions, we like to showcase New Zealand, including our cultural heritage.
The artworks on display change from time to time, as much of it is on loan from various institutions and art trusts. We are about to have a change of artworks at both the Auckland and Wellington houses and you will not be surprised to hear that David and I are taking a close interest in this selection.
We plan to use our time here to bang the drum for contemporary New Zealand culture, in all its diversity, and across all art forms.
The theme for the curated exhibition at Venice, “Viva Arte Viva” utterly resonates with us, as do the words of the curator, Christine Macel, who sees art as the “ideal place for reflection, individual expression, freedom and fundamental questions…a ‘yes’ to life”.
Venice provides a space, in a troubled world, for each artist to say “yes” to life, as well as a contemporary viewpoint of what it means to be a citizen of their own nation, and a citizen of the world.
The Venice biennale is the world’s largest and most prestigious international contemporary art exhibition. It brings together a simultaneous presentation of the world through the eyes of its artists – and it is fascinating, provocative and often deeply affecting.
It is vital that New Zealand be part of that global discussion and exchange, and this evening we are celebrating the presence of our esteemed exhibitor for 2017, Lisa Reihana.
David and I wish Lisa, and everyone involved in supporting her at the Biennale, all the very best with her extraordinary exhibition.
I am sure it will be an absolute highlight of the Biennale, and will cement Lisa’s reputation as one of our most fearless and accomplished artists.
In addition, it’s wonderful that New Zealand will be represented by another artist at Venice this year – Francis Upritchard. Francis represented New Zealand as an exhibitor in 2009 and it is a great tribute to her work that she has been invited to return this year as part of the curated exhibition.
David and I will have the privilege of officially representing the people of New Zealand at the opening of the New Zealand pavilion at the Venice Biennale next month. We are delighted that we will be able to show our support for Lisa and Francis in this way.
Tonight we can also celebrate the presence, for the first time ever, of New Zealand art at documenta, which opened this weekend in Kassel and Athens. Congratulations to Nathan Pohio and the Mata Aho Collective, whose works will appear alongside those of one of our greatest artists, Ralph Hotere.
So, tonight, we all have every reason to say “Viva arte viva”.
Kia ora huihui tātou katoa.
Please enjoy the hospitality of Government House.