Michael Parekowhai's powerful bronze sculpture of a bull standing on a piano captured Christchurch's heart. After spending the winter in his crate, he's back in time for spring.
In the winter of 2012 Chapman's Homer became a symbol of the extraordinary resilience of the people of Christchurch – and thanks to the generosity of thousands, the great bronze bull standing on a piano is now part of the city's collection.
When the Gallery reopens, expect to see him on our forecourt – in the meantime, he's found a new temporary home on the Worcester Boulevard ramp entrance to Christchurch City Council's offices. If you've missed him as much as we have, come down and say hi, pat his nose or hoof, or snap him in a selfie. Chapman's Homer will be at the Council offices for a few months. Keep in touch with us to hear about his next movements, and upload your selfies at his Facebook page, or ours.
Michael Parekowhai is one of New Zealand's most important contemporary artists, known for his witty, larger-than-life sculptures. Chapman's Homer was part of an installation called On first looking into Chapman's Homer created by the artist for the 2011 Venice Biennale of Art. Our bull stood beside his seated brother against the backdrop of post-earthquake central Christchurch, while a red carved Steinway piano was played upstairs in an adjacent building. Over thirty days, more than 50,000 people got out of their cars to see and photograph the two bulls on the edge of Christchurch's red zone.
Purchased 2013 with the assistance of Christchurch City Council's Public Art Fund and Christchurch Art Gallery Foundation; with thanks to Westpac, IAG, Ben and Penny Gough, Chartwell Trust, Ravenscar Trust, Friends of Christchurch Art Gallery, Grant and Sandra Close, Dame Jenny Gibbs, Kevin and Joanna Hickman, Stewart and Nati Kaa, Tony Kerridge, McFadden family, Andrew and Jenny Smith, Chapman Tripp, Colliers, Meadow Mushrooms, MWH Ltd, Pace Project Management, The Press; and with additional thanks for contributions from 1,074 big-hearted individuals and companies.
- Location: Worcester Boulevard, between Durham and Montreal streets
- Exhibition number: 979
Michael Parekowhai: Chapman's Homer at PlaceMakers Riccarton
Christchurch's favourite bull can now be found at PlaceMakers Riccarton. That may sound a bit unusual, but these are strange times.
Michael Parekowhai: On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer
Michael Parekowhai's spectacular Venice Biennale installation returns home for its first post-Biennale showing in New Zealand.
Bringing threads together
Dr Lara Strongman is the Gallery's new senior curator. She speaks to Bulletin about her passion for writing and art history, the importance of culture in a post-earthquake community and the contemporary curator.
When 'Chapman’s Homer' was exhibited at the edge of the devastated central city in 2012, it was positioned between ruin and rebuild just outside the cordon in an empty lot on Madras Street. Our bull stood beside his seated brother while a red carved Steinway piano was played upstairs in an adjacent building. Over thirty days, Parekowhai’s work caught the public imagination as a symbol of the resilience of local people. At once strong and refined, a brutal force of nature and a dynamic work of culture, Chapman’s Homer resonated with local audiences. Subsequently, a public fundraising campaign kept the bull in Christchurch.
Chapman’s Homer was first exhibited in Venice, where Parekowhai represented New Zealand at the 2011 Venice Biennale. It travelled to Christchurch after being shown at the Musée de quai Branly in Paris. Over the past year, we’ve shown it at a number of sites around the city as part of the Gallery's Outer Spaces programme, including Worcester Boulevard, Placemakers Riccarton, New Regent Street, and most recently at Christchurch International Airport. And now the bull is back – standing strong in its permanent home at Te Puna o Waiwhetu Christchurch Art Gallery, welcoming visitors to our reopening exhibitions.
The title of Michael Parekowhai’s work comes from a children’s counting game, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor, Rich Man, Poor Man, Beggar Man, Thief. You might have used it for counting cherry stones, or choosing whose turn it was to go next. It came with a dose of casual sexism, of course: for boys of earlier generations, it suggested what you were going to be when you grew up; for girls, who you might marry. When Parekowhai used the last three ‘occupations’ on the list to title three life-size mannequin sculptures, each depicting a well-set-up young Māori man, the implication was that there was no game of chance involved for Māori—that the social die was already cast.
Parekowhai modelled the figure of the young Māori man on his father. Poorman wears a sharp suit with a black tie, and his hair is immaculate. He looks more than a little like an entertainer from the 1960s, a member of one of the Māori showbands like the Howard Morrison Quartet or The Quin Tikis or The Diplomats. He has a name tag attached to his jacket pocket, as if he were attending some tedious function: Hello, My Name is Hori. Hori is a transliteration of Parekowhai senior’s first name, George. It’s also the name that was commonly used in the 1950s and 60s in racist jokes made by Pākehā about Māori. One way and another, this is a deeply uncomfortable work that confronts—and also confounds—stereotypes of Māori identity.
(Your Hotel Brain 13 May 2017 - 8 July 2018)
Michael Parekowhai’s My Sister, My Self recalls a once-common sight in suburban New Zealand front gardens: the concrete seal with a chrome ball on its nose, a home-grown version of the performing circus seal. Connecting to other histories, it also recalls the kekeno, the New Zealand fur seal, which had an unfortunate central role in our pre-colonial past.
At the pinnacle of this spectacular balancing act is a replica of the artist Marcel Duchamp’s famous 1913 Bicycle Wheel – a bicycle wheel upside down on a wooden stool. Duchamp made it for his own pleasure – he liked spinning the wheel in his studio – and later described it as his first ‘readymade’.
Appropriation—specifically, the use of indigenous cultural material by non-indigenous artists—was one of the critical issues of 1990s art in New Zealand, mirroring the other arguments about Māori land and property rights that were being waged in wider society. Michael Parekowhai’s monumental work Kiss the Baby Goodbye made a major contribution to that heated debate, when he reworked Gordon Walters’ painting Kahukura, completed in 1968—the year of Parekowhai’s own birth—as a sculpture in three dimensions, a giant kitset model ready to be snapped out and made up.
In the late 1980s and early 90s, Walters had been both vigorously attacked and fiercely defended for his earlier use of the pītau (fern frond) design taken from kōwhaiwhai panels in wharenui. Parekowhai’s Kiss the Baby Goodbye was an adaptation of Walters’ painting that both acknowledged the older artist’s work and asserted Māori ownership of its significant forms. It also brought the pītau design back from two dimensions into architectural space.
Christchurch Art Gallery’s work is a smaller version of Parekowhai’s original, made for his first major solo exhibition in 1994. Both sculptures share something not included in Walters’ painting: a final circle at the bottom right corner, which appears like a full stop. Parekowhai, it seemed, would have the last word.
(Your Hotel Brain 13 May 2017 - 8 July 2018)
If you've been down Madras Street recently you might well have seen something unusual on the vacant lot outside NG