News | 3 July 2023
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Rainbow artists of the City Arts collection

Did you know that Wellington City Council has been collecting and purchasing artworks on behalf of the public since 1882? In that time, over 580 pieces have been curated into a City Art Collection, with the majority of the works on public display across the city.

Image of banners hanging from the ceiling.

The City Arts team collect artwork in all forms twice annually, from portraits to sculptures, with a focus on work from artists that are based in Pōneke or have a connection to our city. 

As part of the Make Visible: Te Whanganui-a-Tara programme, which aims to celebrate and increase visibility of rainbow communities, the City Arts team have been diving into the work of the 10 LGBTQIA+ artists that have contributed to the collection, says Kate Hudspith-Gooch, Wellington City Council 2022/23 Summer Intern. 

“We really value Queer representation in the collection because the range of different mediums and artworks show that there’s not one way to be an artist.” 

Whether you know it or not, you have likely seen or interacted with the art before as the collection is rotated through public buildings in the city. Currently, some of the art from our rainbow artists can be seen in places like the Michael Fowler Centre, Hannah Playhouse and Arapaki Manners Library. 

There are around 21 pieces of art and each one shows a different view of our creative capital, says Kate. 

“We live in such a cool city with a lot of different characters. It’s colourful and bright and I think having representation from our rainbow artists is extremely important for representation in a Council setting.” 

Here are some of the works that can be seen around the capital.

Photo from artist Jo Bragg.

Jo Bragg

Found at the Hannah Playhouse is the work of Jo Bragg, a multi-disciplinary artist. Jo’s practice spans writing, live performance, still and moving images. 

Bragg’s work is titled 'Days since and again (so soon)'. All the still images are extracted from video documentation of 10 live and private performance works. The works are titled: ‘What do you fight for? Where feels like home? What’s next?’
These encourage viewers to answer these questions. For Bragg, this series consistently places the androgynous body as central and necessary weaponry in our contemporary world.
Bragg’s artistic practice often puts their body front and centre of their performative work. These works connect with ideas of social and political anxiety, stamina, non-binary, and queerness. 

Gordon Crook banners in the Michael Fowler centre.

Gordon Crook

The iconic and beautiful banners at the Michael Fowler Centre (MFC) were designed by Gordon Crook. Crook was a very private man and he didn’t speak much on his sexuality, identity or any aspect of his personal life for that matter. The world was at times a bit much for Crook, and art was his solace. 

These banners were commissioned while the MFC was under construction. Crook had experience working on large textiles of this scale. Crook was given the prompt ‘Definitely Wellington’ to guide the thematic and artistic vision of these artworks. 

These double-sided banners represent the months of the year but perhaps more than that, their vibrancy are the physical embodiment of Wellington’s artistic culture and heritage. These banners and hangings are just a stone’s throw away from the quirky and alternative Cuba Street, with its colourful bucket fountains and rainbow crossing. 

Artwork of a person infront of colourful wall.

Telly Tuita

Telly Tuita was born in Tonga in 1980. Tuita had a rocky start to life as his mother and father deserted him as a child, even today he hasn't met his mother. He was passed around from different villages in Tonga, and at age nine his grandfather sent Tuita to Sydney to live with his father and Australian stepmother, complete strangers to his nine-year-old self. Young Tuita spoke no English and felt more alone in his new home than he had in Tonga. At age 14 he was kicked out by his stepmother and had to start again. 
Tuita masterfully combines tradition with the contemporary with hints of the biographical in his work. From orphan to emigrant to being gay, his experiences play a central role to his art practice. Tuita has created a distinctive visual language he coined Tongpop. This arose out of Tuita’s love of bright bold colours, alongside traditional Tongan ngatu patterns and religious iconography. He uses Tongpop as a means to hold onto any connection he can find to his birthplace, all the while questioning and re-enacting issues of gender, religion, colonisation and all things pop-culture. 
Tuita regularly rummages through second hand and dollar stores to find homewares or trinkets to create his work. This Tongpop flotsam covers every inch of his series, 'Diaspora’s Children'. Tuita makes and constructs everything that is in the image. This twin series of photographic tetraptych’s can be viewed by the public at Wellington City Council reception area. 

A lot of other amazing works can be found on the Ngā Toi Arts page along with more details on the collection.

Find out more about the Make Visible programme