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Must-see art in Wellington this February

By Josie 1 Feb 2019

Summer is in the city and so are the eagerly awaited terracotta warriors (or 'ceramic soldiers' as I overheard them mistaken for on Dixon Street recently!)

These world famous Chinese imperial icons are waiting patiently at Te Papa for your visit but if China’s '8th wonder of the world' is not enticing enough, there’s plenty more art to see this month. City Gallery Wellington’s Tuatara Open Late nights are back up and running, there is a new space opening for play_station gallery to get you started.

Here are our picks for the top art experiences to be had this month in the coolest little capital. 

City Gallery CGW From Scratch Visitors Photo credit: City Gallery

City Gallery Wellington

Ever wandered around the city and then your phone runs out of battery and you’re stuck? Happens all the time right? That’s why New Zealand Korean artist Yona Lee’s exhibition In Transit at City Gallery Wellington is not only culturally stimulating, but also very useful! Lee’s sprawling pipeline installation explores travel and the every day and conveniently includes an iPhone docking station.

Yona Lee’s work as well as From Scratch: 555 Moons will be front and centre as City Gallery kick off their 2019 events calendar with the first Tuatara Open Late night of the year. As usual, see the exhibitions after-hours, grab a beer, listen to some music and this time pop artist Anthonie Tonnon and an expert panel will be sharing their perspectives on the current exhibition from avant-garde experimental musicians From Scratch and whether music can really be political?

Also, this month at City is a unique chance to drop in and see From Scratch perform live with their wild and wonderful invented instruments at Visitors, a day-long performance.

Wantok The Dowse

The Dowse 

I love an exhibition that encapsulates an entire cultural mood and feeling through an unconventional theme or subject. Ongoing exhibition WANTOK at The Dowse does just this, with an exploration of Melanesian shared cultural values through relationships to hair.

In many Pacific and other global cultures, the head and hair are considered sacred and infused with meaning. Hair is a part of ceremony and ritual, teenage boys go through a hair-cutting ceremony to transition into manhood. With such a universal theme as hair, this exhibition takes a relatable topic and infuses it with important cultural understanding.

Also at the Dowse this month, is an Architectural Talk with Roger Walker. Join the acclaimed Wellington architect as he discusses some of the unique buildings he has designed in Wellington and Lower Hutt.

TW at Te Papa credit Jo Moore Photo credit: Te Papa

Te Papa

If you haven’t until now that the terracotta warriors are in town, where have you been? Discovered by chance in 1974 in an underground tomb, this troop of Chinese Imperial sculptures is often considered one of the eighth wonders of the world! We Wellingtonians are lucky to be hosting them at Toi Art as part of Terracotta Warriors: Guardians of Immortality and I’ll agree they are an alluring MUST see!

Also stopping by for a special visit are the Lanterns of the Terracotta Warriors which will be glowing outside Te Papa from 5 February. Created by Chinese artist Xia Nan’s brightly coloured lanterns, which stand at more than two metres tall, bring together two key features of Chinese art and culture – the compelling story of the Terracotta Army alongside the 2000 year old tradition of lantern-making. Originally commissioned for the Beijing Olympics Games in 2008, the lanterns have been shown around the world to popular acclaim. 

We can also look forward to an appropriately timed celebration of Chinese New Year at Te Papa on Saturday 9 February. The whole day family event will include dance performances, lantern making and a special screening of China’s Ghost Army produced by NHNZ and National Geographic examining the mystery around the discovery of the famous terracotta warriors.

Adam Art Gallery Passages Luke Fowler Photo credit: Adam Art Gallery

Passages at Adam Art Gallery

Looking for something a little more low key but still thought-provoking? The Adam Art Gallery's 2019 programme kicks off with Passages from Luke Fowler, Florian Hecker and Susan Philipsz. This Scottish-German trio present audio-visual installations exploring the power of sound to articulate space. Perfect for a moment of escape and reflection.

Play Station New Space Photo credit: play_station

A new space for play_station gallery

It’s a brand new era for play_station gallery, as the artist-run space moves from its old Egmont Street location to 233 Willis Street. The new gallery will be bigger and also include artist studios - head along to the opening to check it out. 

  • New play_station gallery, opens 6 February
Page Blackie Toss Woollaston Dovedale 1960 Image Courtosey of Page Blackie Gallery Photo credit: Page Blackie Gallery

Toss Woollaston at Page Blackie Gallery 

Toss Woollaston was a prominent New Zealand artist who occupies a unique position in Wellington’s cultural story. Art dealer Peter McLeavey first introduced Woollaston’s expressive paintings to Wellington audiences back in the 1960s and they have been popular in the city since. If you’ve seen his work before, then Page Blackie's exhibition is the ideal time to get acquainted with Toss. 

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