Rau rangatira mā, e huihui nei, tēnei aku mihi māhana ki a koutou. Kia ora tātou katoa. Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, warm greetings to you all.
I acknowledge Geraint Martin, Te Papa Chief Executive; Evan Williams, Te Papa Board Chair; Lady Dayle Mace and Alastair Carruthers, Te Papa Foundation Board of Trustees Co-Chairs; and Liz Gibbs, Chief Executive of Te Papa Foundation.
Thank you for inviting David and me to this special preview tonight. We are excited to join everyone here in celebrating a new era for Te Papa.
First – I congratulate everyone at Te Papa for this institution’s 20 years of dedicated service to the protection and promotion of New Zealand culture and heritage.
We remember the contribution of the late Cheryll Sotheran and Cliff Whiting, along with countless others who worked to make Te Papa a significant repository of the nation’s taonga, and a forum for stimulating and profound cultural experiences.
Expanding the gallery space for visual art is a perfect way to celebrate the first 20 years, and will cement Te Papa’s place as a centre of excellence in the visual arts.
As many of you know, David and I were privileged to contribute to the cultural sector through our previous roles in arts administration.
David, as a Foundation Board member, was there at the very beginnings of Te Papa, so we are delighted to be supporting one of the most recent initiatives, Te Papa Foundation.
It has been just one year since the Foundation was established in New Zealand.
Tonight we recognise this milestone in the renewal programme and express our appreciation to all those who have supported the Foundation’s work.
We look forward to hearing more about the Foundation’s plans to build a strong community of international donors.
Over the last 20 years, New Zealanders have developed a strong sense of ownership of this institution. Te Papa has earned its name as ‘our place’.
It is to be hoped that more New Zealanders living overseas will share that sense of ownership, following the appointment of new UK-based Trustees for the Foundation, and a programme of activities for London members.
During my term as Governor-General, David and I are committed to supporting New Zealand art and artists in whatever way we can.
During one of my early international visits as Governor-General, we were delighted to officially open Emissaries, Lisa Reihana’s stunning work at the Venice Biennale, so we are keen to see what Lisa and the other members of Pacific Sisters have produced for their exhibition.
We have a great love of New Zealand art and feel that part of our role is to showcase it to the thousands of visitors who come to both Government Houses each year.
We have recently overseen a refresh of the artworks in the public rooms, and were grateful for the support and advice we received from Te Papa.
This year at the Bledisloe Reception on Waitangi Day, we rang the changes somewhat by creating a sculpture lawn at Government House Auckland, complete with scores of bean-bags.
I must say it took quite some time to coax the guests from that part of the grounds at the conclusion of the reception.
We have also hosted concerts, a fashion parade, and a one-person play, and we will welcome every opportunity to bring the arts into both Government Houses.
We will no doubt call upon Te Papa again in the next few years, and in turn, we will do what we can to support the Foundation’s work.
I appreciate that Te Papa has a wide remit, and has to meet the challenges of being all things to all people.
I am confident that there will be strong public support for these beautiful new gallery spaces and the opportunity to have enhanced access the National Collection and the best of contemporary art.
People will be counting down the days till they can come and see the opening exhibitions on Saturday.
In this year when we celebrate 125 years since women achieved suffrage in New Zealand, I congratulate Te Papa for having such a strong female presence in these opening exhibitions.
It’s a focus that aligns with the theme of the suffrage celebrations: Whakatu Wahine – women standing tall – past and present, in all fields of endeavour, including the visual arts.
Tonight, we celebrate our artists, past and present, our cultural emissaries to the world.
Their work speaks of a nation firmly and confidently located in the Pacific, while enjoying a diversity of cultural influences.
In the coming months, here and overseas, I look forward to being a something of a roving ambassador for Te Papa myself, spreading the word about this stunning new gallery space and the exhibitions.
Congratulations to everyone involved in bringing this project to fruition, to the artists whose work we are waiting with baited breath to see – and all the very best with the public opening on Saturday.