Peter Robinson

Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1966
Ngāi Tahu, Māori

Mission Statement: First we take Island Bay then we take Berlin

  • 1997
  • Oil on unstretched canvas
  • Purchased, 1997-1999
  • 2685 x 5045mm
  • 97/24

Mission Statement was painted in a friend’s studio in Ōtautahi / Christchurch at a time when Peter Robinson was regularly travelling back and forth between Aotearoa New Zealand and Germany. Riffing off Leonard Cohen’s lyrics, he outlined a plan for geopolitical success as a contemporary artist: a campaign first to be waged in a suburb of Wellington, then in Berlin. When he first started exhibiting in Germany, he found that his work was in danger of being misread – or exoticised – because of its New Zealand cultural references. He made his own ambition to succeed in Europe the supposed focus of a body of work, casting himself as an enterprising tourist with a plan for world domination. Although it seems humorous, the real subject is cultural alienation and the difficulty of communication between people with different cultures and languages.

(Te Wheke, 2020)

Exhibition History

earlier labels about this work
  • Your Hotel Brain 13 May 2017 - 8 July 2018

    Cash into fashionable contemporary dialogues. That's Strategy #6 for making it big as a contemporary New Zealand artist in Europe, outlined in Peter Robinson's Mission Statement. Kissing arses, dropping names, exploiting guilt and confusing the public, Robinson’s painting promotes a range of cynical tactics for achieving career success—schemes which, if they exist at all, are probably far better kept quiet. It’s a work that offers a biting—and hilarious—critique of the artworld in the mid-1990s.

    Mission Statement was painted in a friend's studio in Christchurch at a time when Robinson was travelling regularly back and forth between New Zealand and Germany. Using tourist phrases and sketches of local landmarks, peppered with caustic artworld in-jokes, and with questions in te reo Māori, Mission Statement explores various problems of translation between different cultural contexts, the most obvious of which is how to make it big when you come from New Zealand. Its real subject, however, is cultural alienation: the difficulty of communication between people, given limited time and different understandings. At this end of the world, what is recognisable to locals as the underlying compositional structure of a tukutuku panel, or as the red, black and white paint colours of wharenui, would be understood in quite a different cultural and historical context elsewhere.

  • Peter Robinson has created a painting rich in satire and irony as he explores ideas on how to succeed as an artist in New Zealand. The title refers both to the mission statements that have become the mainstay of politically correct government departments and to a song by Leonard Cohen.

    Robinson’s sardonic ‘advice’ suggests that style and schmoozing are more important than substance. It builds on ideas raised in earlier works in which he mockingly traced the ascent of his career in an art world that was eager to display bicultural sensitivity.

    Robinson is a graduate of the University of Canterbury School of Fine Art. He has received numerous awards and has participated in several international residencies. In 2001 he represented New Zealand at the Venice Biennale and he had a residency in Berlin in 2000. Robinson exhibits regularly in New Zealand and Europe and is represented in public and private collections. (Label date unknown)