Family friends and the arts community are saluting the
achievements of Ralph Hotere ONZ after he died in Dunedin
Hotere, widely considered one of New Zealand's most acclaimed
and provocative artists, died peacefully at midday,
surrounded by family.
A statement released by Hotere family representative Judith
Ablett-Kerr yesterday afternoon read: ''It is with deep
regret and profound sadness that I advise of the death of
Ralph Hotere ONZ. Funeral arrangements will be advised at a
''He was a genius and a very sweet person,'' Hotere's former
wife, of 14 years, Bluff poet Cilla McQueen, told the
Otago Daily Times. The 81-year-old, who suffered a
serious stroke in 2001, had been unwell recently.
In a career spanning more than five decades, he became well
known for tackling key events in New Zealand's history with
his dark and poetic paintings and he remains one of the
country's most significant and valuable artists.
In 2010, his Black Window sold for $275,000 - the
highest price then realised for a work by a living New
Zealand artist. Vive Aramoana fetched $183,000 at
auction in 2011.
''He was our greatest living contemporary artist. I don't
think there's much doubt about that,'' Dunedin arts curator
Peter Entwisle said.
''Frances Hodgkins was the first New Zealand artist to really
break through international boundaries and Colin McCahon came
a generation later. Ralph was the next in line.''
''Ralph Hotere. A truly great artist. One of our greatest
and, like Colin McCahon, a bridge across two powerful rivers.
Haere ra,'' Auckland art historian Hamish Keith said.
''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 blogger Cheryl Bernstein described Hotere as: ''A great
artist, a friend to poets, a painter of requiems''. Hotere
always preferred to let his art speak for itself.
''There are few things I can say about my work that are
better than saying nothing,'' he once said.
Prime Minister John Key also paid tribute to Hotere
''I extend my sympathies and condolences to the family and
friends of Mr Hotere, who was one of only a handful of New
Zealanders to be granted the country's highest honour, the
Order of New Zealand,'' Mr Key said.
Hotere was born Hone Papita Raukura Hotere in 1931, one of 15
siblings, at Mitimiti, just north of Hokianga Harbour.
He attended St Peter's Maori College (Hato Petera College)
and Auckland Teachers College, before moving to Dunedin in
1952, to study art at the former King Edward Technical
At that time, he qualified as a Tiger Moth pilot at the
Taieri Aerodrome Training School in Mosgiel.
He later worked as a schools art adviser for the Education
Department in the Bay of Islands, before winning a New
Zealand Art Societies Fellowship in 1961, to study at the
Central School of Art in London. His time in England
coincided with the pop art movement and greatly influenced
his later work.
He returned to New Zealand in 1965 to focus on his art and
settled in Port Chalmers.
He held his first solo exhibition, the self-titled ''Ralph
Hotere'', at the Dunedin Public Library the same year.
Two breakthrough solo exhibitions followed in ''Sangro
Paintings and Human Rights'' (1965) and ''Black Paintings''
(1968), before he was awarded the University of Otago Frances
Hodgkins Fellowship in 1969.
Many of Hotere's works referenced the dark side of life, and
his political beliefs.
His Sangro series was a memorial to his brother,
Private Jack Hotere, who was killed in action by the Sangro
River in Italy on December 21, 1943.
The Polaris series was a response to the nuclear
Polaris missile in 1984, while his Aramoana series
attacked plans to build an aluminium smelter at Aramoana.
Black Union Jack protested the 1981 Springbok tour and
Black Rainbow condemned France over the 1985 Rainbow
Another of the artist's legacies, the Hotere Garden Oputae,
was built on Observation Point at Port Chalmers in 2005 after
Hotere's studio was controversially removed for Port Otago
development. The garden includes his 1991 Black Phoenix
Hotere also collaborated on works with other artists and
poets, such as Hone Tuwhare and Bill Manhire.
In 1984, he represented New Zealand at Fifth Biennale of
Sydney, with Colin McCahon, and he was
awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Otago in
In 2003, he was one of the 10 inaugural recipients of an Icon
Award bestowed by the Arts Foundation of New Zealand.
In 2006, he was awarded the Te Taumata Award by Te Waka Toi,
recognising outstanding leadership and service to Maori arts.
He received New Zealand's highest honour - membership of the
Order of New Zealand, which is limited to 20 living members -
in the 2012 New Year Honours.
Governor-general Lieutenant-general Sir Jerry Mateparae said
the award was a reflection of the artist's ''service, merit,
endeavour, perseverance, commitment, excellence and, above
Hotere's citation said that as a painter, sculptor and
collaborative artist, he had reacted to social and
environmental issues through his work.
Sir Jerry yesterday paid tribute to Hotere as ''a quiet man
of great strength and character whose contributions ...
provide thought-provoking commentary on the many facets of
Hotere celebrated his 80th birthday in 2011 with exhibitions
throughout the country and completed an artwork for his
Christchurch printer, Marion Maguire, as a sign of support
for the quake-hit city.
Hotere's work is represented in art museums throughout the
world. He is survived by his wife, artist Mary McFarlane, and
legally adopted daughter, Andrea Hotere Naish.
• An obituary will follow.