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Speech

Surrealist Art - He Toi Pohewa Exibition at Te Papa

Issue date: 
Thursday, 10 June 2021
Speaker: 
The Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy, GNZM, QSO

Dame Patsy with Salvador Dali's Venus de Milo with Drawers
Kei nga mana kei nga reo

Nau mai, tauti mai, 

ki tenei kaupapa nui,

hei āhukahuka i tēnei āhua, toi, ko te moemoeā.

 

Me tīmata ahau mā te korero

Mā te pohewa, mā te auaha hoki,

ka whakapuaki ngā kura e huna ana. 

With imagination and creativity a hidden jewel can be revealed.

 

It’s wonderful to join you for the launch of this very special exhibition.

From a purely personal point of view, I am delighted to see He Toi Pohewa come to Te Papa – I have always been fascinated by the magic and mystery of Surrealist art.

I am sure New Zealanders will be excited at the prospect of seeing works that have had such an enduring impact on the way art is made and regarded.

It’s a rare opportunity to view works that have influenced artists, writers, film-makers and designers around the world – and to see how Surrealism was investigated by artists in locations stretching from Paris to South America, from the 1920s to the 21st Century, working in film, painting, poetry, furniture and photography.

Cultural theorist Susan Sontag may have had Surrealism in mind when she said that good art has the capacity to make us nervous.

Almost a century after the earliest of these works were made, they still have the capacity to unsettle and provoke us.

The first Surrealists were responding to the carnage, trauma, and upheavals of the First World War; they challenged the thinking that inflicted such suffering on millions of people; and they wanted to bring about radical change and new and better ways of organising human society.

In 2021, as we grapple with major existential crises of a different kind – this exhibition feels particularly apposite and timely.

It reminds us of the power of the imagination to bring about new ways of seeing the world – and that a small group of people can respond to the challenges of their times and inspire and influence the thoughts and actions of subsequent generations. 

In a world where conspiracy theories and fake news have gained far too much traction, surrealism may be the perfect antidote.

We owe sincere thanks to Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen for enabling New Zealanders to experience these important works from the Museum’s collection.

At this time when overseas travel beyond our TransTasman bubble is so difficult, we are indeed fortunate that they could be brought to us in Aotearoa New Zealand, and be seen alongside works by New Zealand artists who have responded to the Surrealist tradition.

Last week, David and I were fortunate to travel to Canberra and Hobart on an official visit.

We were delighted that our programme included visits to the National Gallery of Australia and the Portrait Gallery in Canberra.   And in Hobart we visited MONA – the Museum of Old and New Art.   An extraordinary place, in fact I would describe it as a ‘total immersion’ surrealist experience, engaging all of our senses as well as our imaginations.

I was reminded yet again of the power of surrealism to shock – to confront and provoke us – but also of its consolations, its delights and sheer joy.

By engaging with the inner world of the human psyche, it creates a heightened awareness of our lived experience.

Mā te pohewa, mā te auaha hoki, ka whakapuaki ngā kura e huna ana.

With imagination and creativity a hidden jewel can be revealed.

Thank you, once again, to everyone involved in making this collection accessible to a New Zealand audience.

No reira Tēnā koutou Tēnā koutou Tēnā tatou katoa

I am delighted now to declare this exhibition officially open.

 

Last updated: 
Thursday, 10 June 2021

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