New Zealand’s geographic isolation means the country’s creatives look at things a little differently.

Kiwi artists and designers have proved international success can come from staying true to their own vibe – and there’s no better place to see the country’s most unique art works than Auckland. 

Art

Michael Parekowhai
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The Lighthouse, Michael Parekowhai. Queen's Wharf

Is a life-size sculpture of a classic 1950s Kiwi state (Housing Commission-style) house perched on the downtown Queens Wharf one of New Zealand’s priciest pieces of real estate? Trust Michael Parekowhai to make worlds collide. The Lighthouse combines commentary on politics, society, Maori culture, landscape and navigation in the kind of package that has seen Parekowhai represent NZ at the Venice Biennale. Bonus: from the staircase, you can see Devonport’s two extinct volcanoes, which you can climb to enjoy sweeping harbour views.

Fiona Pardington, Billy Apple

The view from Pardington’s home at Piha out over the wild west coast, with its black sand and moody seascapes, surely influences her darkly distinctive style, which explores beauty, life and mortality. In 2016, she was the first Kiwi artist to become a Knight of the French Order of Arts and Letters for her photographs of collections held in French museums. Find her work at Starkwhite gallery in Auckland’s uptown Karangahape Road– plus pieces by Billy Apple, a boundary-pusher since the 1960s who has work exhibited in major international museums and galleries.

Colin McCahon

Colin McCahon was just achieving international success when he died in 1987. Still, the influence of his work, exploring symbolism, religion and protest on New Zealand art can’t be overstated. Tucked among native bush, McCahon House in Titirangi, West Auckland, features a museum and a studio for artist residencies. Nearby are the rugged beaches of the west coast.

Design

Jamie McLellan

Is there anything this man can’t design? Furniture, bicycles, cutlery, storage systems, kayaks – everything bears Jamie McLellan’s strong silhouettes and singular vision, channeled from his studio overlooking the vibrant Wynyard Quarter on the waterfront. The Allbirds Wool Runner shoes McLellan co-designed have the world’s press in raptures. Find his work in the “concept” stores of Simon James, a furniture-design doyen. 

Zoe & Morgan

Elegant with a kick-ass edge, Zoe & Morgan jewellery is crazily covetable. The three sibling/owners have stores in Auckland and London, celeb fans and show at Paris and London Fashion Weeks. The pieces reference their travels, ancient cultures, native birds and landscapes. See them at City Works Depot, a former bus depot now packed with hip eateries and shops.