Kiwi artist centre stage at 'Olympics' of contemporary art

The Venice Biennale is often described the Olympics of contemporary art, being the oldest and most prestigious art exhibition on the planet.

More than 80 countries are represented with 120 exhibitions, and amongst the world's elite this year is Māori artist Lisa Reihana.

She told Three's The Hui, "To be in this place amongst the best of the best, I'd say it's the pinnacle of my career."

The Venice Biennale is the only exhibition in the world where the artist represents their country. New Zealand commissioner for exhibition Alastair Carruthers says the selection of Reihana's work exhibition Lisa Reihana: Emissaries, which includes the centrepiece 'In Pursuit of Venus [Infected]', was "richly deserved".

This is the eighth time New Zealand has sent an artist across to the Venice Biennale but this is the first time the New Zealand Pavilion has been located in the official building of the Biennale, the Arsenale.

'In Pursuit of Venus [Infected]' spans across a 25m wall, and tells the story of Captain Cook's encounters with the people of the Pacific.

To create the piece, Reihana used the latest in digital and video technology. The characters were shot on green screens and then placed against a reworked historical wallpaper.

Reihana's masterpiece has taken more than eight years to complete. It debuted in Auckland in 2015 to record numbers at the Auckland Art Gallery, with 49,000 visitors viewing the video work. It's expected to generate the same hype in Venice, with more than half-a-million people coming through the Biennale over the next seven months.

Carruthers says presenting at the Venice Biennale will transport Reihana's career, and he has no doubt more international opportunities will come her way as a result.

Watch the video for the full report.

The Hui