Bill Culbert to represent New Zealand at the 55th Venice Biennale

Acclaimed sculptor, photographer and installation artist Bill Culbert will represent New Zealand at the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013.

Culbert (b. 1935) is a maker of elegant, poetic, and often dazzling sculptural installations that harness the qualities of electric light and make striking use of found materials. From suitcases pierced with fluorescent tubes, to chandeliers of repurposed furniture, through to vast arrays of reclaimed plastic containers, Culbert’s artworks celebrate the qualities of common things and invite us to pay fresh attention to the world they come from. While renowned for its economy, wit, and ‘light touch,’ Culbert’s art also, in the words of critic Ian Wedde, “conveys an ethical challenge: to be alert, to participate, to converse.”

Bill Culbert, HUT, made in Christchurch, 2012 (installation view, Sue Crockford Gallery, Auckland, 2012). Photo by Samuel Hartnett

“Bill makes marvellous work, constantly re-investigating how light works and revitalising how we think of it,” says New Zealand’s Venice Biennale Commissioner, Jenny Harper. “Venice is a wonderful platform for us to celebrate his individual achievements and to continue to present the richness of this country’s visual arts practice. It will be fascinating to see how he responds to a venue that is both spatially and historically rich.”

The 2013 New Zealand Pavilion will be at the Istituto Santa Maria della Pietà (La Pietà) on the Riva degli Schiavoni. The centrally located complex offers four exhibition spaces, including an outdoor courtyard.

“The venue worked very well for the New Zealand presentation in 2005,” says New Zealand Arts Council Chair, Alastair Carruthers, “and it is exciting that for 2013 we have been able to secure a larger exhibition complex, allowing Bill to respond to and create a journey through some very different spaces, and extending New Zealand’s presence to the busy edge of the Grand Canal.”

Starting out as a painter at the Canterbury University School of Art and at the Royal College of Art, London, in the 1960s Culbert began to experiment with light and movement, and since the 1970s his art has encompassed photography, electric light, and found objects. Since 1960 he has had more than 100 solo exhibitions in New Zealand, England, Europe, the United States, and Australia, and appeared in many group exhibitions. He has also produced major public sculptures in spaces ranging from the Millennium Dome in London to the Wellington waterfront in New Zealand.

In 2012 Culbert’s work has been seen in solo shows at Sue Crockford Gallery, Auckland and Laurent Delaye, London, and in group shows at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney and the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki. Later this year, a substantial selection of his early paintings and experimental light works will appear in a survey of British and Brazilian Concrete Artists at the Centro Brasileiro Britânico in São Paulo, Brazil.

The curator of New Zealand’s 2013 Venice Biennale exhibition is Justin Paton, senior curator, Christchurch Art Gallery. Paton is one of the country’s foremost curators and an award-winning writer and television presenter on the arts.

New Zealand’s arts development agency, Creative New Zealand, funds and administers New Zealand’s presence at the Venice Biennale. Creative New Zealand acknowledges the support of Christchurch Art Gallery and Massey University in the realisation of the 2013 exhibition.

New Zealand has exhibited at the Venice Biennale since 2001 with exhibitions by Peter Robinson and Jacqueline Fraser (2001), Michael Stevenson (2003), et al. (2005), Judy Millar and Francis Upritchard (2009), and Michael Parekowhai (2011).

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