Portraits of Māori by European artists are often full of objects - clothes and personal adornments, and sometimes larger items such as carvings or weapons. By putting people and objects together, the artists are suggesting something about the subjects’ personalities, their cultural situation or how they fit into the world.
The Object of the Portrait brings together portraits of Māori and taonga Māori (treasures). It explores how these artists, using the medium of ink or paint, have chosen to represent physical objects made of wood, stone or fibre and in doing so, it focuses on the act of artistic interpretation through which a physical object becomes a represented one.
While the objects displayed are not the exact ones depicted in the artworks, the contrast lets us think about the interpretations that are taking place - not just in terms of objects, but how the subjects are presented.
What kind of choices have the artists made in relation to the person being pictured? Based on the evidence of the objects painted by the artists, how accurate, romantic, stylised, sympathetic or sentimentalised are the subjects?
Portraits of Māori and taonga Māori are on loan from Rotorua Museum and Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust Heritage Collection.
Entry is free for Rotorua residents with relevant ID.
Pounamu koropepe. Artist unknown. Courtesy of Rotorua Museum.