Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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All our relations: International exhibitions of Moana art from Aotearoa in the 2000s

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posted on 2023-12-16, 10:08 authored by Ioana Gordon-Smith

In the early 2000s, several exhibitions of Moana art from Aotearoa were presented overseas. These exhibitions coincided with a wider ‘global turn’ in the 1990s and 2000s, in which curators turned their attention towards non-western art to present a global programme. The ‘global’ has subsequently dominated curatorial discourse and art history. In the process, Indigenous art’s international movements have often been historicised through a ‘top down’ global framework that renders entry into a global paradigm the only set of relations governing these exhibitions.

This thesis takes a different tact. Specifically, it draws on relationality to suggest the Moana has always held an ever-thickening web of shared and entangled histories with geographies around the world. While not minimising the influence of the global turn on offshore presentations of Moana art, relationality reintroduces other, much longer histories into the context of these exhibitions. This approach deliberately moves away from the global framework’s emphasis on inclusion and recognition to examine how prior histories and entanglements were either acknowledged or minimised in international exhibitions of Moana art from Aotearoa.

Specifically, this thesis uses comparative analysis to examine four exhibitions staged in the 2000s: "Paradise Now? Contemporary Art from the Pacific", Asia Society Museum, New York City, 2004; "Pasifika Styles", Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge, 2006-2008; "Date Line: Contemporary Art from the Pacific", Neue Berliner Kunstverein, Berlin, 2007-2008, and "Le Folauga: the past coming forward: Contemporary Pacific art from Aotearoa New Zealand", Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts, Taipei, 2008.

Drawing on relationality, this thesis argues that these four exhibitions can be distinguished as producing either ‘thin’ or ‘thick’ relations, corresponding with the extent of entanglements acknowledged, fostered, and at times overlooked within each exhibition. In doing so, this thesis argues that international exhibitions actively shape and frame relations between Moana art and its hosting contexts in ways that are more sprawling and complex than the global paradigm would recognise.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Art History

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Arts

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

1 Pure basic research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of English, Film, Theatre, Media Studies and Art History


Brunt, Peter