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Modern master of Maaori art: Sandy Adsett retrospective opening soon

27 September 2023

Ki nga raa kei te haere mai ka tuu te whakaaturanga toi a Sandy Adsett, he Tohunga ite ao toi mai ra ano. I whanauhia mai ki Ngati Porou te Kaumatua nei, engari, noo Ngati Kahungunu kee he puna whakairo Moona i puta mai i ana nei mahi. Waimarire hoki a Te Whare Taonga O Waikato ki te hiki tenei kaupapa mo te marea o Kirikiriroa otira, Waikato nui tonu. 

‘In the coming days, the Sandy Adsett exhibition will be open to the public. Sandy is a renowned artist of the art world. He was born in Ngaati Porou but tribally affiliated to Ngaati Kahungunu where where his inspiration is drawn from. We are lucky to have this exhibition here at the Waikato Museum for all communities both local and regional to enjoy.’

Spanning a monumental six decades, Toi Koru: Sandy Adsett is the first major survey exhibition of paintings by Maaori artist Sandy Adsett, regarded as a master of colour and koowhaiwhai (traditional Maaori pattern design).The exhibition will be open at Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga O Waikato from Friday 29 September 2023 and entry is free.  

Dr Sandy Adsett (Ngaati Kahungunu, Ngaati Paahauwera) is one of the most influential contemporary artists of his generation, with a bold abstract style that has given new voice to customary approaches to Maaori art. Adsett is also highly regarded for his lifelong contributions as an educator, curator, and arts administrator.  

Toi Koru: Sandy Adsett has been developed by Pātaka Art + Museum and is on tour nationwide. It features artworks from major public collections, including the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, as well as a new series of paintings created by Adsett especially for the exhibition. 

“Over the last sixty years Sandy Adsett has had a hugely successful career as an artist in Aotearoa and internationally, and yet Toi Koru: Sandy Adsett will be only his third solo exhibition. It’s a wonderful opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the significant contribution Sandy has made to contemporary art in Aotearoa New Zealand,” said Liz Cotton, Director of Museum and Arts, Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato. 

“Sandy is recognised as a true exponent of merging traditional mahi toi (Maaori artwork) with contemporary Western art practices. It’s thrilling to have our gallery filled with his bold, vibrant, and innovative works.” 

The paintings in Toi Koru: Sandy Adsett trace important moments in Adsett’s career, from the establishment of the contemporary Maaori art movement in the 1960s, to his intergenerational influence as an educator and advocate. 

Adsett’s immense career has seen him train many celebrated Maaori artists, while his influence and artwork can be found across Aotearoa New Zealand in meeting houses, churches, art museums, government and corporate venues, and private collections. 

Born in Wairoa in 1939, Sandy Adsett attended Raupunga Native School where he first witnessed koowhaiwhai painted on an old whare. He received his formal art training from renowned Ngaati Porou master carver Pine Taiapa (1901-1972) as part of the Department of Education’s Art in Schools itinerant teachers training programme of the 1950s and 1960s. 

Adsett went on to become one of the co-founders of Te Toihoukura School of Maaori Visual Arts in Gisborne in the 1990s and was the principal tutor at Toimairangi School of Maaori Art in Hawkes Bay from 2003 to 2021, named as adjunct professor by Te Wānanga o Aotearoa for his contribution to art education and the Maaori community. 

In 2005, Adsett was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to art. He was presented with the Creative New Zealand Te Waka Toi Supreme Award Te Tohu Aroha mo Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikahu in 2014, and was honoured as an Arts Foundation Icon in 2020. 

The retrospective exhibition Toi Koru: Sandy Adsett is on display at Waikato Museum until 10 March 2024. Entry is free.



For te reo Maaori, Hamilton City Council and its facilities uses double vowels (uu) in place of vowels with a macron (ū) to represent a long vowel sound. This spelling approach is the preference of tangata whenua in Hamilton Kirikiriroa and Waikato iwi for te reo Maaori words.