Remembering Jim Vivieaere – artist and curator (1947-2011)

Remembering Jim Vivieaere – artist and curator (1947-2011)

The Pacific Cultures team and the Art team would like to acknowledge artist and curator Jim Vivieaere who passed away a month ago after illness.

Jim’s involvement with Te Papa spanned many years and several projects including Art now: the first biennial review of contemporary art (1994). Art curator Christina Barton invited Jim to create a work in the Pacific Cultures Gallery at the former museum building in Buckle Street. Jim’s installation Two sky Rockets (one for adornment) featured two 44 gallon drums suspended centrally above artifacts on display in the gallery, and reflected on relationships of cultural and economic exchange in the Pacific. Throughout his career Jim held an interest in museums, artifacts and cultures of display and would return to this theme again in future works.

Jim’s connection with Te Papa included his support in the development of Fulimalo Pereira (now at Auckland Museum) and myself when we were interns with the Museum of New Zealand project in the early 1990s. We were both new to museums and art galleries at the time, and Jim agreed to participate in one of our first book projects Speaking in Colour: conversations with artists of Pacific heritage (1997).  His involvement in Speaking in Colour was critical in securing the involvement of others. It became clear to us that Jim was an influential leader in a determined but low key and quiet way. Throughout our careers he has been a valuable friend and advisor, and has shaped our practice in many ways, as he has for others in the museum.

Jim exhibited as an artist from the 1970s, but he was also an active curator and (among many other things) sometimes a writer. He was always looking to cross and disturb cultural boundaries, working with and against stereotypes. He brought complexity to the way we created, consumed and curated visual art in New Zealandand the Pacific. In a memorable article he wrote titled The Island Race in Aotearoa (1997) Jim described contemporaryPacific Island art in New Zealand as being a three legged race – both a novelty and a handicap event.

“‘The artist is tied to his community on one side and his audience on the other, uncomfortable about working alone in the Western tradition of individual statement, and at the same time constricted by the art world itself, which offers only a narrow opening – a vision of a imagined Pacific Island world – through which the work is admitted to a public space.”

Jim was involved in art projects of all kinds small and large, local and international. His work as a curator included the ground breaking exhibition Bottled Ocean (1994) which debuted inWellington and toured the country. He was an advisor to the Queensland Art Gallery and the Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre inNew Caledonia. He held international artists residencies in Germany and Samoa.

Jim was also a great ambassador for the arts, welcoming visiting overseas curators and artists, showing them around town and through the country to visit local artists and galleries. In 2006, the Pacific Arts Committee of Creative New Zealand presented Jim with the Senior Pacific artist award, recognising his numerous achievements across many fields of creative activity.

Jim was an incredibly generous person who mentored and inspired many people. In 2010 and 2011, I had the pleasure of attending the Curating Pacific Arts Forums, part of the annual South Auckland Pacific Arts Summit. At both forums, participants representing at least the last 20 years of local curatorial and artistic practice, offered many (impromptu) acknowledgements and warm tributes for Jim and his work. I was glad he was there to hear them. Farewell Jim…

Please feel welcome to leave your own tributes to Jim in the comments section.

Reference cited:

Jim Vivieaere 1997 The Island Race in Aotearoa. Artlink 16 (4). page 57


A tribute by Ron Brownson of the Auckland Art Gallery


  1. It was with great sadness that I read pf Jim’s passing upon my return to New Zealand after 20 years in Australia. I had the pleasure and privilege of briefly working with and for Jim during the installation of Bottled Ocean at City Gallery Wellington in 1994 and have always remembered him with great fondness and respect as a warm, humane, approachable professional with enormous reserves of passion and compassion for artists and the people of the Pacific. We valued his broad inclusive view, his appreciation of the big picture and reverence for the finest details of artworks and crafting traditions; and his acute, irreverent wit. Such a sad loss to the arts community in the region; taken far too soon.

  2. I would like to add my voice to Sean’s tribute to Jim on behalf of the Pacific Cultures and Art Team @ Te Papa. Jim was also a friend and associate of mine, a beautiful and dignified man whose own art practice as I saw it , included curating, writing, facilitating and enabling as well as making art; collaged and mixed media works, paintings, moving image, installations.

    I can’t even remember when I met Jim. I think it was on the stairs of the Old Museum in Buckle Street when he was developing Bottled Ocean. He called in on his way back from south and visiting artists like Johnny Penisula. His work as Sean wrote about in the First Art Now project at Buckle Street curated by Tina Barton was a fantastic work with those drums hanging precariously above the taonga cases of the Pacific gallery. His work was an intervention into and a critique of the Pacific Galleries display, supported and accomodated by Dr Janet Davidson who then worked at the Museum as well as by Tina as the curator of that project.

    I remember spending time with Jim in Sydney in the early 1990’s at a conference at the MCA and being filmed with him attending a Bangarra dance performance at the the invitation of Tracy Moffatt as part of French Documentary about Tracy and her art practice. She said in her self-effacing way that she wanted to be seen as having lots of friends. Jim also supported Tracy with her ‘Up in the Sky Photographs’, working as part of her crew during the creation of those works and travelled to New York for her big opening at the DIA Centre of the Arts which in many ways launched Tracy internationally.

    I also remember spending lots of time with Jim and Terry Firkin at Archill Gallery in Auckland with the then Curator of Contemporary Maori art John Walsh and with other colleagues and friends.

    I have two artworks of Jim’s myself from a show held in Canberra, not even sure of the year anymore, but the exhibition coincided with a symposium called Reimaging the Pacific, in honour of Bernard Smith, Bernard Smith attended and was the keynote speaker. The symposium was organised by Dr Nicholas Thomas who then worked at the Cross Cultural Research Centre in Canberra. Jim, John Pule, Brett Graham and myself formed the New Zealand contingent at the symposium, invited by Nicholas and financially supported by monies he source on our behalves. Along with Judy Watson of Australia we formed a strong part of the indigenous contingent involved in that symposium. The two works I have I bought from Jim because they were so Jim. Neither cost very much. At that time I am sure I could not afford very much, still can’t! but they appealed as minimal and unassuming works, but which like Jim, had a quiet but definite presence.

    One is called Man on Beach and features sand from Papaeete, Tahiti and the other is called Man on Volcano and features volcanic ash from Mt Ruapehu when it was erupting. Last time he stayed at my house, in Wellington for the opening of Pacific exhibition at the City Gallery, he added a shell neckland to the Papaeete work, which still hangs around it.

    Jim also travelled with me to the Banff Centre for Continuing Education in Canada in 2003 and participated in the Making a Noise Symposium that looked at ‘Aboriginal perspectives on art, art history, critical writing and community.’

    I wanted to finish my small tribute to Jim of random rememberings, by quoting some of his own words from the paper he presented at that symposim.

    ‘Indigenous art is positioned for the moment, when the pendulum reaches its apex,the split that stays in balance, and then circles. This is the time of transition, the turning point, when the past activates the present, when the tuna eats its tail.’

    Moe mai Jim Vivieaere, nga mihi aroha kia koe

    Megan Tamati-Quennell

    Curator Contemporary Maori, Indigenous art
    Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

  3. Yes Jim was an inspiration to me, a girlfriend one day said to me, i have to introduce you to a cook islands person, who is in the arts, she said, you just have to meet him, so she took me to an exhibition opening at the arch hill gallery, and that is when i met Jim, it was maybe 15 years or so ago, the show was about his students i think, a group exhibition, he was very busy, my girlfriend was very bold, and pushed her way to him and said, this is the artist i wanted u to meet, he spoke in a attentive voice, which made me relax, and trusted enough to meet up again, it was not long, he got me to join tautai contempory arts society in ponsonby, and i started to met other artists, such as ani oneil, ian george and richard cooper and more, i then held my first solo exhibition at the arch hill gallery, in grey lynn in auckland, that creative nz had funded, he also supported me when i curated a exhibition at the uxbridge in howick, of 14 cook islands artist, up coming and established, Jim and others were in that exhibition, time had past, and about 8 years ago, i had moved to rarotonga, and had opened my own art gallery in muri, it was called the muri beach art gallery, he came to me there and got 2 small paintings from me to take back to new zealand and show in a cook islands group exhibition in auckland city, it was lovely to see him in our home land, he said to me, i like to come and see u andrea, because i like to hear your stories, he told me what he was there for, and had got my paintings back not long after the exhibition, this is sad for me, because Jim took me under his wing, and opened the door to the art world, he was a humble artist, like myself, i am grateful i had that opportunity to have him introduce me to my fellow artists and cook islands artists, he just knew where i was coming from, because he use to like hearing my stories and thats how he got to know me more than others, now this has happened to Jim , I have been very sick these past few years too, he has inspired me to keep going and to do the things i have wanted to do, maybe wright a book with my stories in them, and paint some more, and go to art school, like i told him i wanted to do, and many other things, we are connected with the Ngati Makea Tribe from Rarotonga and Mangaia, because i have been sick for the last year i have been back, i never got to see him, but i did email him, and the last time i spoke to him, he said his daughter was visiting from Germany I think. A man i will always remember for his inspiration he has given me, and his nurturing , caring ways, Spread your wings Jim to your freedom, until we meet again, Kia Manuia, Love Atua xxox

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