Six Artworks To Discover At The New Zealand Pavilion

As part of Aotearoa New Zealand’s participation in Expo 2020 Dubai, the New Zealand Pavilion has joined forces with Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, to bring a digital taste of the nation’s art talent with The Art Wall: A New Zealand Contemporary Art Showcase.

Featuring a collection of 120 works curated by Te Papa’s Contemporary Art Curator Nina Tonga in consultation with the museum’s specialised art consultants, the interactive installation invites visitors to select their favourite piece of art to ‘hang’ on a large LED screen for all to enjoy.

The collection will include works by a wide range of New Zealand artists across multiple disciplines including painting and photography, spanning from 1937 to 2020.

To get you started on your art discovery journey, here are six artworks to look out for at the New Zealand Pavilion:

  1. Don Binney, Pacific frigate bird I, 1968 Born in Auckland in 1940, Don Binney OBE studied at the University of Auckland Elam School of Fine Arts, graduating in 1961. His crisp, hard-edged paintings of native birds in the New Zealand landscape were inspired by a fascination with ornithology, birdwatching and a concern for environmental issues. Painted at the height of Binney's critical acclaim in the 1960s, while travelling on a ship to Mexico and Central America, Pacific Frigate Bird I represents his interest in the mythological potential of the bird and the freedom of flight.

  2. Brent Wong, Linear aspect (A), 1969 Known for his distinct style that blends surrealism and realism with symbolic content from his own life, Brent Wong remains one of New Zealand's most prominent artists. Originally from Ōtaki, Wong transitioned from painter to music composer in 2008, another of his great passions. Linear aspect (A) is a landscape acrylic painting, showing green hills, a long thin cloud that extends from the centre left edge and a plain blue sky. The sky is a constant feature of Wong’s paintings and a source of inner optimism and joy.

  3. Colin McCahon, Scared, 1976 Colin McCahon was born in Timaru in 1919 and is regarded as New Zealand’s foremost twentieth-century painter. The large-scale abstract expressionist paintings he encountered during a 1958 trip to the United States were a pivotal influence on his work. Developing an abstracted approach, he incorporated numbers, biblical text, Māori language and poetry to explore themes of life, death, faith and uncertainty in paintings such as his ‘I AM’ works. In Scared, scrawled text on the stark, blackboard-like canvas acts as a confession of anxiety followed by a resounding declaration of courage and faith. The words have been brushed on rapidly, spattering dots of white paint and reinforcing the urgency of the message.

  4. Emily Karaka, The Painted Dream Garden, 1991 Traversing the political and the personal, Emily Karaka's expressive intensity has earned her a status as one of New Zealand's top cutting-edge painters. Having held the role as an Iwi (tribal) representative for Māori Land Rights and Treaty Claims issues, Karaka's works are a powerful reflection of the ongoing issues that exist in Aotearoa New Zealand. The Painted Dream Garden is an oil, acrylic and pastel piece on two sheets of paper featuring intense colour, characteristic of Karaka’s works.

  5. Shane Cotton, Whakapiri atu te whenua, 1993 Born in Upper Hutt, Wellington in 1964, of Māori and Pakeha descent, Shane Cotton's works speak to contemporary issues that exist within Aotearoa New Zealand. Recognisable by his distinct style that touches on themes such as cultural identity, biculturalism, Māori spirituality and the circle of life and death, Cotton continues to be one of New Zealand's leading contemporary artists through his work and contribution to the nation's artistic identity. In Whakapiri Atu te Whenua, Shane Cotton draws on imagery from late nineteenth-century Māori figurative painting found in the meeting houses on the East Coast – a style inaugurated by the prophet Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki and especially prominent at Rongopai marae at Patutahi near Gisborne. Māori figurative painting was one of the first cross-pollinations between Māori and European visual cultures. In this particular work, Cotton reinterprets and reshapes that early visual interaction.

  6. Gretchen Albrecht, In a shower of gold, 2011 A leading artist of her generation, Gretchen Albrecht CNZM was born in Auckland in 1943. She graduated from the University of Auckland’s Elam School of Fine Arts with a Diploma in Fine Arts with honours in 1963 and was later awarded the Frances Hodgkins Fellowship in 1981. In the same year, Albrecht began to exhibit the shaped ‘hemisphere’ canvases saturated in colour that are among her most distinctive works. Architecture, art history and literature all feature in Albrecht’s work and unite in her striking 2011 painting In a shower of gold. The title alludes to the Greek myth in which the beautiful princess Danaë, locked in a bronze tower by her father, is impregnated by the god Zeus who descends in a shower of gold.

The Art Wall: A New Zealand Contemporary Art Showcase will be running throughout the six months of Expo 2020, welcoming visitors to explore some of New Zealand’s finest artworks. To find out more about Te Papa, please visit:

Opening hours: 10am – 10pm, daily

Location: The Co-operative Room, New Zealand Pavilion

Please note that Art Wall may not be available if the Hosting Venue space is booked for a private event.