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Yuki Kihara exhibition confirmed for Biennale Arte 2022

Two Fa'afafine (After Gaugin) from Paradise Camp series Photo: Yuki Kihara
Two fa’afafine (After Gauguin) from Paradise Camp series. Photo: Yuki Kihara

If there’s one thing to know about artist Yuki Kihara, it’s that she is a pioneer.

Regarding her selection as New Zealand’s representative for the Venice Biennale (Biennale Arte) last year, Kihara told reporter Johnson Raela, “I’m the first Pacific, the first Asian, the first fa’afafine and the first trans artist to represent the country of Aotearoa.”

But with border closures due to the COVID pandemic, the event was postponed until next year.

And as we near the end of 2021, a team will soon prepare to install her exhibition on hallowed Venice grounds.

An inter-disciplinary artist, Kihara spent eight years creating her Biennale Arte exhibition Paradise Camp, which “explores the ongoing Sāmoa-New Zealand relations from a fa’afafine (Sāmoa’s ʻthird gender’) perspective”.

“Paradise Camp was first inspired by an essay by Ngahuia Te Awekotuku presented at the Paul Gauguin Symposium held at the Auckland Art Gallery in 1992, and was further developed after viewing Gauguin paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York on the occasion of my solo exhibition at the MET in 2008.”

Curated by Natalie King, the exhibition incorporates a variety of mediums and works including archival research, photography and video, and was shot and filmed on location in Upolu, Samoa.

Kihara worked together with the fa’afafine community to create her exhibition, which will explore the impacts of colonisation intersectionality and climate catastrophe on her community.

L-R Inter-disciplinary artist Yuki Kihara and Paradise Camp curator, Natalie King Photo: Evotia Tamua
L-R Inter-disciplinary artist Yuki Kihara and Paradise Camp curator, Natalie King Photo: Evotia Tamua

Commissioner of New Zealand’s presentation at the Biennale Arte 2022 Caren Rangi says Kihara’s selection was “a significant one, highlighting that we are overdue to be including Pacific Indigenous perspectives in global dialogues”.

“Biennale Arte provides an exceptional opportunity for international exposure for New Zealand art and our artists to showcase their work on the world cultural stage.”

Known as the “Olympics of the art world”, the scale and longevity of the Venice Biennale is known for attracting thousands of visitors over its six-month period.

Rangi adds the New Zealand’s presence at the Biennale Arte 2022 is crucial to engaging audiences, curators, writers and collectors with the contemporary New Zealand art scene.

“It celebrates and affirms our country’s artistic and cultural identity at the world’s leading contemporary art forum.”

“Yuki’s presentation of Paradise Camp further contributes to New Zealand’s reputation of being an innovative country with a diverse range of arts practice.”

The 59th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia will open to the public from 23 April to 27 November 2022.

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