The Art of September

For lovers of New Zealand art who want to see new and exciting work by our artists but who also have itchy feet, we have you covered. Some of the following are expats based abroad, others are exhibiting overseas at the top of their game. September is a great month to grab your passport and head off to Europe, the US, or Asia where homegrown talent is making waves on the international stage. For those tight on time, there’s a weekend away option in Tasmania, too.


Post hoc Dane Mitchell Palazzina Canonica 2019


Dane Mitchell: Post Hoc, Venice

Interview with Dane on the Art Ache Spotify podcast. Known as the Olympics of art, the Venice Biennale is pretty much the top for artists. New Zealand’s 2019 representative is Dane Mitchell whose project delivers cryptic lists of the vanished, the lost, or the destroyed. Mitchell’s work broadcasts a vast inventory of bygone things to locations throughout the city via fake tree cellphone towers, structures in the guise of another of our disappearing treasures. At the Palazzina Canonica scrolling lengths of white paper emerge from the ceiling and cascade across the floor in an elegantly minimal installation, lists of all that which has been lost.  Make sure your phone is charged, the fake trees double as transmitters, providing smartphone access to hot spots which let you hear the lists.

Venue: Palazzina Canonica on Venice’s Riva dei Sette Martiri. Until 24 November 2019.
Simon Denny, Amazon worker cage patent drawing as virtual King Island Brown Hornbill cage (US 9,280,157 B2: “System for transporting personal within an active workspace”, 2016). 2019. 120 x 100 x 270 cm. White matt powder coated stainless steel, steel, aluminium and MDF panels, plastic wheels Photo: MONA/Jesse Hunniford.

Simon Denny, Mine, Tasmania

Berlin-based Simon Denny is one of the international art world’s hottest young talents. He represented NZ at the 2015 Venice Biennale and with recent major exhibitions in London and New York he’s flying high. Denny describes himself as a “very cerebral kind of guy who likes to pack a lot of ideas and information into shows” and he’s not kidding. The exhibition attempts to collapse observations about some of the world’s most complex and intricately connected systems – including capitalism, labour, technology, and environmental catastrophe – into something digestible. It’s a tough call, but Denny manages it through a clever mixture of giant board games, life-size replicas of machines and products, and augmented reality that operates throughout the exhibition.

Venue: Museum of Old and New Art, Tasmania. Until April 2020.
Still from ‘The Scream of the Strawbear’, digital video, 2019

Matthew Cowan: The Scream of the Strawbear, Germany

Throughout his practice Matthew Cowan has explored rituals of European folk celebration and their uneasy relationship with contemporary life. Carnival-esque and mysterious, Cowan’s photographs, videos, and performances celebrate the full glory and deeply strange expression of folk costumes and traditions. His exhibition includes footage of a Strohbär procession, a longstanding German folk ritual where a man covered completely in straw is led around the village at the end of a large chain, and a Maimann procession which involves an enormous costume constructed entirely from green leaves and children who run around and collect eggs and bacon from houses. See if you can spot shots of native NZ bush somewhere in the exhibition also. Now that he’s based in Europe we don’t get to see enough of Matthew Cowan, so let’s hope this solo show encourages a major exhibition of his work here soon.

Venue: Kunsthalle Giessen, Germany, opening 7 September.
Virginia King, ‘Floating Alphabet’ 2019
Virginia King, ‘Floating Alphabet’ 2019 (detail)

Virginia King: Personal Structures, Venice

Also in Venice, Virginia King is showing at the Palazzo Bembo, a 15th-century building adjacent to the Rialto Bridge on Venice’s Grand Canal. A long-time environmentalist, King has often used her creative voice to focus attention on the environment. Her finely detailed metal sculptures echo the fragility and vulnerability of the Earth’s eco-systems and are informed by nature, mythology, history, science and literature. Over three metres long, ‘Floating Alphabet’ was a performance work in the Canal di Sant’Alvise in connection with the exhibition.

Venue: Palazzo Bembo, Palazzo Mora and Giardini Marinaressa, Venice.  Until 24 November 2019.
Tracey Tawhiao, AOTEAROA

8th Beijing International Art Biennale

New Zealand is one of six countries to hold a special exhibition at the 2019 Beijing International Art Biennale. Thirty-four works from 21 contemporary New Zealand artists are included under the ‘A Colourful World and A Shared Future’ theme including Philippa Blair, Kerry Ann Lee, Tracey Tawhaio, Michael Tuffery, and Evan Woodruffe. Tracey Tawhaio (Ngai te Rangi, Whakatohea, Tuwharetoa) creates powerful art works from the unconventional art material of newspaper. Obscuring words and using alternating blocks of boldly coloured oil pastel and graphic symbols, her art ‘rewrites’ the news from an alternative, Māori perspective, changing the focus of each news item and subverting the editorial slant.

Venue: National Art Museum of China, Beijing. Until 23 September 2019.
Ruth Buchanan Split, Splits, Splitting, 2019

Ruth Buchanan: Otterlo

Be in quick to see this exhibition by a New Zealand artist developing some serious  credentials on the world stage. In the Netherlands Ruth Buchanan has been commissioned to create a new work in response to German minimalist Charlotte Posenenske’s practice. Investigating the boundary between art and daily life, Buchanan questions the role of language and architecture in relation to the artist in an installation around walls, doors, hallways, and windows.

Venue: Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo. Until 15 September 2019.