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Michael Parekowhai Image by Fleur Wickes

Michael Parekōwhai’s Biography

Last Updated:
19/04/2021, 12:37 pm
Arts Foundation Laureate 2001
Ngā Ariki/Ngā Tai Whakaronga
Michael Parekōwhai makes a broad range of work, across a range of media. He is one of New Zealand's most important contemporary artists.

Michael Parekōwhai was born in Porirua, New Zealand in 1968, of European and Māori descent. He graduated with a BFA (1990) and MFA (2000) from Auckland University's Elam School of Fine Arts and holds the position of Associate Professor in Fine Arts at the University of Auckland. His exhibition history spans two decades of practice.

Michael's narratives can be complex; he draws on an abundant range of both vernacular and collective vocabularies which he re-manufactures into the narrative structures and formal languages of his work. Although key themes of his practice could be described as deliberate takes on notions of introduced species and culture, any potentially overt political dimensions are downplayed. Ideas of camaraderie, tools of teaching and childhood learning, as well as quotes from the canon of modern art history and popular culture openly play out in many of Michael's stories. While his work is often described as emphasising the extraordinariness of the ordinary, each body of work has layers of potential for meaning and significance - they are open to any depth of interpretation and storytelling.

Michael Parekōwhai is one of New Zealand's most important contemporary practitioners. In addition to an extensive exhibition history, his work is held in all significant public and private collections throughout New Zealand and Australia, as well as major works in permanent collections across the Asia-Pacific region and Europe. Michael Parekōwhai has been included in many important exhibitions, including the Asia Pacific Triennial (2006-2007), the Gwangju Biennale (2004); Sydney Biennale (2002), Headlands, MCA, Sydney (1992); and the major art fairs in Basel, Art Basel (2006, 2007) and LISTE (2007). A major volume cataloguing Michael Parekowhai's practice was recently published by Michael Lett, Auckland (2007). Michael's work has been reviewed in most major international art periodicals, and covered by every major art periodical in Australasia.

Michael received an Arts Foundation Laureate Award in 2001. He represented New Zealand at the 2011 Venice Biennale with his work On First Looking into Chapman's Homer.

Milestones & Awards