Lisa Reihana <br/>
Maori people born 1964<br/>
<em>in Pursuit of Venus</em> 2015<br/>
2 channel colour high definition video transferred to media player, <br/>
stereo sound, 15 min 58 sec, ed. 2/3<br/>
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne<br/>
Purchased NGV Foundation, 2015<br/>
© Lisa Reihana
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Lisa Reihana 
Maori people born 1964
Media Release • 9 May 16

Lisa Reihana: in Pursuit of Venus

Using twenty-first century digital technologies to animate a nineteenth-century French neo-classical wallpaper, Lisa Reihana’s live-action video work, in Pursuit of Venus, powerfully challenges the exotic representations of Pacific Islander peoples found in colonial European art.

Reihana’s work is inspired by a panoramic wallpaper originally designed by Jean-Gabriel Charvet for Joseph Dufour in France, Les Sauvages de la mer Pacifique (1804‒05), which illustrates the Pacific voyages of Captain Cook, Louis de Bougainville and de La Pérouse and was a celebrated example of French Enlightenment taste. The wallpaper was designed to encase and transform the room of a wealthy European or American estate into a Tahitian idyll.

Reihana subverts the fanciful representation of Pacific Islander peoples found in Les Sauvages by populating her video work with the sounds and actions of accurately dressed Māori and Pacific Islander actors and boldly illustrating moments of violent imperial conflict, events which are noticeably absent from Dufour’s idyllic panorama.

‘Reihana’s work boldly recalibrates colonial history from an indigenous standpoint that shows Pacific Islander people as custodians of their own identities,’ said Tony Ellwood, Director, NGV.

in Pursuit of Venus is on display at NGV International, 180 St Kilda Road, Melbourne, Australia from 10 June – 10 September 2016. Entry is free.


This exhibition forms part of an in-depth focus on Pacific art and culture at the NGV in 2016. NGV International will also host two other major exhibitions of contemporary Pacific art, Greg Semu: The Raft of the Tagata Pasifika (People of the Pacific), an exhibition of powerful photographic works that restages two iconic European history paintings with a cast of twenty-two indigenous actors from the Cook Islands, and Siu i Moana: Reaching Across the Ocean, an immersive exhibition of contemporary ngatu (Tongan barkcloths) by Robin White and Ruha Fifita in collaboration with the women of Haveluloto Village, Tongatapu.

These will be presented alongside Art of the Pacific, an extensive collection display which honours the customary shields, figurative sculptures and masks and shows works of the kind that inspired the European Avant-Garde to invent new forms of Modernism, as well as a dynamic range of body ornaments, encompassing contemporary Polynesian lei, headdresses and jewellery, barkcloths and photographs of Samoan tatau.


Contemporary Pacific Art and Community Day
Sat 11 Jun, 11am – 3pm
Join in a celebration of Melbourne’s vibrant Pacific community and experience contemporary Pacific culture and art with music, performances, workshops and talks led by international and local artists and curators in this special program marking the opening of exhibitions Siu i Moana: Reaching Across the Ocean, Greg Semu: The Raft of the Tagata Pasifika (People of the Pacific), Lisa Reihana: in Pursuit of Venus and display of the NGV Collection, Art of the Pacific.
Cost Free
Venue NGV International