Secret Paintings and Interactive Sci-Fi at Wellington’s Biannual Arts Festival


Things you rarely hear in Wellington: there’s no wind, it’s too hot, there’s nothing to do.

As one of the city’s strongest supporters, even I have to admit that the weather hand thrown at my hometown isn’t always the best.

But one day in mid-January, as the capital does so well, the wind died down and everyone — from my Uber driver to the overworked ice scooper — was complaining about the heat.

If you really want to start an argument in Wellington, say you’re bored and the city doesn’t offer much to entertain locals and visitors alike.

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* Spirituality, cosmos and wonder at the Hilma af Klint exhibition

Especially this summer, when Wellington is a giant conveyor belt of culture, thanks to New Zealand’s biannual Aotearoa Arts Festival (February 21-March 20).

Spanning a glorious month, the festival is not only an excuse to immerse yourself in theatre, art and the kind of exhibitions that rarely come to our shores, it’s also a chance to seek out the air-conditioned comfort from the blazing sun.

I don’t have the word to name all the highlights of the festival, but I watched some of its greatest hits to find out what it was all about.

Rita Angus: New Zealand modernist

Cass 1936, Rita Angus.


Cass 1936, Rita Angus.

If you’re lucky enough to visit our National Museum this summer, for heaven’s sake take the elevator up to the fourth floor of Te Papa for the Rita Angus exhibit. Better yet, sign up for a guided tour to hear the stories behind the paintings.

Our guide Alex clearly operates under the philosophy of ‘while you’re here you might as well see as much as you can’, so begins our hour-long tour with a detour into the National Art Collection of New Zealand, where the Kaleidoscope: Abstract Aotearoa The exhibition explores how form, color and pattern have captured our imaginations in this part of the world.

Auckland artist Tiffany Singh’s light installation of vibrant bands of color that change with our mood is a particular delight, as is Lisa Reihana’s Chasing Venus [infected]an expansive digital wallpaper that reimagines our colonial history and wows us with its incredible attention to detail.

But it’s more than 70 oils and watercolors by Angus that I’m really here to see. Spread over one wing of the ground, it is a snapshot of a woman who captured Aotearoa from 1920 to 1960 in oils and watercolors, a world of breathtaking landscapes, other artists and a philosophy marked by the fierce feminism, pacifism and desire for social change that characterized Angus’s life.

What I don’t know about art would fill several textbooks, but I am fascinated by Angus’s journey from a flat graphic style to a more abstract cubist bent towards the end of his life.

Evening dress and cape Kevin Berkahn photographed at Bannockburn Sluicings, Central Otago by Derek Henderson, 2019.

Derek Henderson

Evening dress and cape Kevin Berkahn photographed at Bannockburn Sluicings, Central Otago by Derek Henderson, 2019.

The 70s was the decade that gave us shag carpets, Farrah Fawcett hairstyles, Pink Floyd and fashion so hideous or glamorous, depending on your perspective, it would take a whole other article to discuss it. .

If you’re too young to remember, or just want to bask in the glory of 70s retro fashion, then the Dowse Art Museum in Lower Hutt is where you should go.

Eden Hore: Haute couture/High Countryis a deep dive into the decade’s avant-garde haute couture with 24 striking pieces, from dresses in sparkling lurex tulle and screen-printed silk to so much polyester you hope they’ll never come close to an open flame. .

The backstory is even better than the dresses: Eden Hore was an upland farmer from Naseby, central Otago, who randomly filled his farm shed with more than 200 designer clothes in the 1970s. All are by Kiwi designers who used the sartorial medium to escape the everyday grayness of 1970s Aotearoa. Hore’s vintage tailoring collection is considered one of the most important in Australasia and is estimated at over $80,000.

When you’re done having a blast with Hore’s incredible finds, head upstairs to enjoy the SOLO 2021 exhibition, a collection of work by local Wellington artists.

Hilma af Klint: The Secret Paintings

The Ten Greatest, 1907. Photo courtesy of Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden.

Asa Lunden

The Ten Greatest, 1907. Photo courtesy of Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden.

“Art galleries are kind of like dark chocolate, you can always fit another one in,” a friend says when I mention my next stop is a date with the enigmatic Swedish artist/mystic, Hilma af Klint .

Turns out she’s right, because this 100+ collection is a delightful addition to the festival lineup.

Caleb Gordon, Public Programs Specialist at City Gallery Wellington, explains how Klint, who was working in early 20th century Stockholm, developed an entirely new artistic style.

“Hilma was believed to have created some of the earliest examples of abstract art, certainly before what we consider the ‘fathers of modernism’ such as Kandinsky and Mondrian,” says Gordon.

Which certainly raised eyebrows in the art world. But what makes this collection so striking is that it was “hidden” in the basement of the artist’s brother for 20 years after his death. “Hilma was convinced that the world was not ready to see her art.”

I wander the two floors of large and small abstract and botanical works, marveling at how lucky Wellington is to look at this art – it’s just one of two exhibitions Down Under (and the Sydney one closed after just two weeks , thanks to Covid).

Gordon tells me that when it was exhibited at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2019, it broke all attendance records in the museum’s long history. And if it’s good enough for New Yorkers…

Goal Mars

Destination Mars is a live interactive theatre.


Destination Mars is a live interactive theatre.

Confession time: I could never add “science fiction fan” to my CV and I don’t know my star wars Devil StarTrek.

So I’m not really sure if Goal MarsTe Papa’s high-tech theater show that gives new meaning to the term interactive, is definitely my cup of green tea.

We zip through what’s set up like the space station’s control room, seated behind individual consoles with our own touch screens, as two energetic actors guide us through the storyline: it’s the year 2034 and a rocket is on the way. point of being launched. But a solar flare puts the station in danger and we all have to stick together to save the day.

There’s a lot of screaming and furious activity and I’m not sure what buttons to push, but it’s impossible not to smile during the 45 minutes of production. Plus, we can all do with a little escapism once in a while, right?

Best line of the day goes to the kid to my left who yelled, “That’s better than Netflix.”

The writer was a guest at WellingtonNZ

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