Rhana Devenport, the Director of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, has been selected by the Arts Council of New Zealand Toi Aotearoa (Creative New Zealand) as curator for the New Zealand Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale in 2017.
She works alongside New Zealand artist Lisa Reihana supporting and assisting Lisa with presentation of her work.
OurAuckland spoke with Rhana to find out more about her role and the Venice Biennale.
Why is the biennale so important for New Zealand?
The Venice Biennale is the most discussed and watched event on the international contemporary arts stage, attracting over half a million visitors in 2015.
Aotearoa / New Zealand has earned a strong reputation for presenting memorable and impressive exhibitions in Venice that reflect the robust cultural life of our country. It is vitally important that we further build on that reputation and expand our cultural presence internationally.
How are you feeling about being selected as the curator?
Honoured, of course, to be working with the strong and highly experienced team at Creative New Zealand and especially honoured to be working with an artist I admire greatly, someone who continuously surprises me with her intelligence, imagination, tenacity and depth.
What is your history with Lisa Reihana?
Lisa and I first worked together in 1996, when her sculptural work was included in a grouping of works selected by Jim Vivieaere and for the second Asia Pacific Triennial (APT) at Queensland Art Gallery.
I was Senior Project Officer for the APT from 1993 to 2003. We worked together again on the fourth APT in 2002. Then I curated her solo exhibition, Digital Marae, when I was Director at Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in 2007, a project that was nominated for the Walters Prize in 2008.
Last year, I curated her project in Pursuit of Venus [infected] for Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki and edited the associated book, in Pursuit of Venus.
Tell us about Lisa’s plans for the biennale.
She will be presenting her panoramic digital video work, in Pursuit of Venus [infected], which will include additional scenes, as well as a new photographic series.
What are you most looking forward to about the project?
I am particularly looking forward to working closely with Lisa and my excellent team at Auckland Art Gallery, who will be supporting various aspects of the project, such as the new publication, our third together.
Ultimately, I am most looking forward to watching the responses to the work in Venice by audiences unfamiliar with her work. I am always fascinated by the unexpected emotional and intellectual possibilities that are open to people when they encounter art.