Ralph Hotere Studio listed as Category 1 historic place


Ralph Hotere’s studio on Oputae/Observation Point in Kōpūtai/Port Chalmers has been entered into the New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero as a Category 1 historic place.

Built in 1876 as a simple four-room cottage by New Zealand Shipping Company engineer, William Putnam, this building was the first studio Hotere owned. He purchased the property in 1970 after completing the Frances Hodgkins Fellowship at the University of Otago.

The studio at Kōpūtai/Port Chalmers embodies the spirit of Hotere and his work, as well as being the last remaining house on Aurora Terrace. Hotere often worked on paintings into the late hours at the studio and many of his significant artworks were conceived or created there.

Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Chief Executive, Andrew Coleman, welcomes the listing. “It is exciting to see new additions to the New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero such as the Ralph Hotere studio in Dunedin and Bill Sutton House and Garden in Christchurch, which reflect Aotearoa’s recent cultural and artistic heritage”.

Ralph Hotere, widely considered New Zealand’s greatest living artist before his death in 2013, was the first artist of Māori descent to be written into a Pākeha history of New Zealand Art. Awarded many honours in his lifetime, he used his creative gifts to confront issues such as social and political justice for New Zealanders, environmental issues, nuclear war, apartheid and racism.

Hotere had a strong connection with Kōpūtai/Port Chalmers; living and working there for over 40 years. He revitalised many of the harbour’s long-forgotten Māori placenames, by writing them into his artwork. Kōpūtai has long been an area of significance to tangata whenua. It was occupied by Māori since the 12th century, and is an acknowledged wāhi tapu area.

Hotere’s studio was purchased by his friend Naomi Wilson in 1984, who has been a respectful guardian of the space making any additions within Hotere’s aesthetic tradition. Naomi has been a strong supporter of the listing:

“I’m very pleased that Pouhere Taonga recognise the significance of the property for all of Aotearoa me Te Waipounamu” says Naomi. “The location is crucial to the taonga. It’s sitting in a bowl of surrounding maunga. The wonderful light fall and ambience of the dwelling are integral components of works Ralph created here. I appreciate the research Sarah Gallagher put into the report, and the support of Ralph and my whanau and friends to reach this result”.

Hotere was a generous host and friend, and the studio was often visited by other creatives such as Bill Manhire, Bill Culbert, Hone Tuwhare, Ian Wedde, Warren Dibble, Marilynn Webb and Marti Friedlander. Hotere also invited renowned potter Barry Brickell to build a kiln onsite when he resided at the house for some time. Later, the kiln bricks were reworked into the house as decorative elements, paving and walls.

The listing report highlights many of the features and interiors created and customised by Hotere and his friends. Hotere knocked down walls to make an open space, and recycled materials to form beautiful and useful features. The kitchen was built of recycled windows and doors. Hotere designed and built the imposing entrance gate out of carefully composed recycled items. Hotere’s window painting and glass art have been carefully retained.

“This is a unique building full of Hotere’s style and craftsmanship” says Heritage New Zealand listing advisor, Sarah Gallagher. “The studio has outstanding cultural significance, and is symbolic of artists’ needs for networks, connections, time and space in which to create, grow and thrive”.

The Hotere whānau have also supported the listing process and are thrilled with the outcome. “We are really happy that the studio will be recognised and preserved,” says Ralph’s daughter, Andrea Hotere. “We have great aroha for Naomi and are grateful to her for making this possible. For us, the studio is a special place imbued with Dad’s wairua.”

Photo credit: Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga

Further media contact: Andrew Coleman: andrew.coleman@heritage.org.nz