Ralph Hotere, one of New Zealand's most acclaimed and
provocative artists, has died.
In a career spanning more than five decades, the 81-year-old
became well known for tackling key events in New Zealand's
history with his dark and poetic paintings.
He died peacefully in Dunedin about midday today.
Hotere was made a Member of the Order of New Zealand in 2011
- the only person to be awarded the country's highest honour
Born in Northland and of Te Aupouri iwi descent, Hotere's
home of Mitimiti played a key role in his work.
He later moved to Port Chalmers in Otago - an area that also
became an important influence on his his work.
The impact of his powerful works was recognised with the
Order of New Zealand, which was conferred upon him by
Governor-General Lieutenant General Sir Jerry Mateparae in
the Dunedin Public Art Gallery.
Sir Jerry said at the time that the award "speaks of service,
merit, endeavour, perseverance, commitment, excellence and,
above all, mana".
Hotere's citation said that as a painter, sculptor and
collaborative artist, he had reacted to social and
environmental issues through his work.
His art is dominated by black, both in colour and in the
artworks' titles, and makes extensive use of words, often
quoting poets and his conversations with them.
He dealt with key New Zealand historical events such as the
Springbok tour and the Rainbow Warrior sinking.
Hotere also responded to issues closer to his Port Chalmers
home, including the Aramoana massacre and a proposed
He and other artists and writers were part of the No Smelter
campaign against the proposal, which was part of the
then-government's Think Big scheme.
He celebrated his 80th birthday in 2011 with exhibitions
throughout the country.
That year he also completed an artwork for his Christchurch
printer, Marion Maguire, as a sign of support for the
Hotere's painting are well-regarded by collectors, with his
piece Vive Aramoana fetching $183,000 at auction in November
He was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of
Otago in 1994, and was recognised with an Icon Award from the
Arts Foundation in 2003.
Hotere Foundation chairwoman Judith Ablett-Kerr QC said news
of his death was of "deep regret and profound sadness".
At the time of his New Year's honour, she said Hotere
remained outspoken about issues that troubled the world, even
a decade after suffering a debilitating stroke.
"Ralph's career spans over 50 years and reflects his intense
spiritual interest in humanity and environment."
New Zealand art commentator and curator Hamish Keith was
among those who paid tribute to Hotere on Twitter.
"Ralph Hotere a truly great artist one of our greatest and
like Colin McCahon a bridge across two powerful rivers haere
"And it should be said of Ralph Hotere that he was a great
warrior artist and he fought with his art for great causes.
"When a great person dies we are left with the changes they
made to our world - time to reflect on that."
Art historian Cheryl Bernstein said she was saddened by
"A great artist, a friend to poets, a painter of requiems."
Christchurch Art Gallery tweeted: "We're so very sad to hear
of the passing of Ralph Hotere. One of the best."
Hotere suffered a debilitating stroke in 2001 and was
understood to have been unwell in recent days.
He is survived by his wife Mary McFarlane.
Ms Ablett-Kerr said funeral arrangements would be advised at
a later time.
- Matthew Backhouse of APNZ