• Brett Graham

Bartley & Company Art is delighted to present a major new site-specific installation alongside two new wall works.

With Ark of Forbearance, Brett Graham asks questions about why we believe what we believe, and what we do in response to those beliefs.

While Graham’s new installation reminds of us apocalyptic floods and the Biblical story of Noah’s Ark, this is an ark for today. How do we navigate the world of rising sea levels, climate crisis, pandemic, war, terrorist attacks, challenges to the rights of women, and more, amidst strongly polarised perspectives and an increasing sense of the subjectivity of fact or truth?

Drawing on his highly acclaimed recent major exhibition Tai Moana Tai Tangata, at the Govett-Brewster Gallery in New Plymouth and at City Gallery Wellington, and advanced as he considered the occupation of Parliament grounds earlier this year, Graham’s ark explores issues that are both ancient and acutely contemporary about the nature of truth, belief and faith.

There are also local references to the passive resistance of the people of Parihaka in the 19th century and the oratory of their great leader Te Whiti, from which the exhibition takes its title. On the eve of the invasion Te Whiti told his people: “Forbearance is the sole ark of your safety. As Noah built the ark to carry his people safely through the flood, so let fortitude be the ark to save you.”

Filling the gallery space, this massive sculpture brings to mind the work of the great American artist Richard Serra and it operates, as does Serra’s work, to make us physically experience the scale, materiality and weight of sculpture. Here that weight is lent to a consideration of precariousness and the ways in which ‘truth’ or ‘logic’ can be redefined in accordance with belief.

In referencing both the Bible and Te Whiti, who is regarded as one of the world’s great pacifist leaders alongside, and preceding, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther-King and Nelson Mandela, Graham looks to the past to speak to the present.

The ark is accompanied by two new hand-carved spherical timber shields:

Manawanui (the red work) is the Māori word for forbearance which implies tolerance, patience, restraint. It was Te Whiti’s response to Government intervention at Parihaka.

Aceldama (the gold work) references Te Whiti’s use of the biblical name of the field acquired by the Pharisees with the bribe Judas took for betraying Jesus. Te Whiti predicted that Māoridom also would be beset by those who would accept ‘bribes’ to betray their people.

Graham appears to suggests forbearance as a strategy for addressing differences and aceldama as a reminder that differences in human values and beliefs have always existed.

Brett Graham (Ngāti Koroki Kahukura) is a prominent contemporary New Zealand artist whose work has been included in exhibitions all over the world. Highlights internationally include the Honolulu Biennale 2017, the Venice Biennale 2007, the Sydney Biennale 2006 and 2010 and the 2013 survey of international indigenous art at the National Gallery of Canada. He is renowned for his ability to abstract complex historical and cultural ideas into formally strong, powerful and beautiful sculptural forms His recent major exhibition Tai Moana Tai Tangata, is considered one of the most powerful and historically significant solo exhibitions ever to be staged in New Zealand. History and power relations are the predominant themes of Graham’s work and Tai Moana Tai Tangata is a multi-layered exploration of the New Zealand wars of the mid-19th century.

Opening Hours

  • Wednesday – Friday, 11am - 5.30pm
  • Saturday, 11am - 4pm


  • Level 2/22 Garrett Street
  • Te Aro
  • Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Wellington 6011