Brett Graham

Spirit of Aloha
780 x 780 x 100 mm (each), 6 parts
powder coated metallic paint on cast iron
Courtesy of the artist and Bartley & Company Art, Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington

Estimate: NZD 30,000 — 40,000

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An encounter with a Brett Graham (Ngāti Koroki Kahukura, Tainui) sculpture is always an event. His recent exhibition Tai Moana, Tai Tangata is currently showing at City Gallery Wellington after its launch at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery earlier this year, the fruition of his 2019 residency. Graham’s practice frequently addresses the architecture and phenomenology of the colonial frontier period by rebooting built or constructed forms, often those associated with the prosecution of the colonial military or spiritual programmes with their counter-insurgent responses within Te Ao Māori.

With Spirit of Aloha Graham conflates that ‘lingua franca’ visual signifier of Polynesia, the Frangipani flower, with the kitset form of the Davy Crockett missile, described in military jargon as ‘a tactical nuclear recoilless smoothbore gun for firing the M388 nuclear projectile armed with the W54 nuclear warhead.’

Graham, whose career achievement was recognised in 2021 with his being named an Arts Laureate, cast Spirit of Aloha from iron in local foundry.

The Davey Crockett missile was tested at the Pohakuloa weapons testing area in Hawai’i between 1962—68. By shrinking the relative scale of the nuclear warhead and enlarging that of the flower, Graham creates a metaphor for the re-assertion of the natural world in the face of the man-made intervention of war-mongering.

Artist Biography & History
with Artspace Aotearoa:


Elam Sculpture Show, 1987

Brett Graham


Dr. Brett Graham (Ngāti Koroki Kahukura, Tainui, b. 1967) has in recent years unveiled an ambitious programme of large-scale sculptural installations in public galleries. In 2021 his exhibition at the Govett Brewster, Tai Moana Tai Tangata, curated by Anna-Marie White (Te Atiawa) was described as, “a monumental artwork; in form, scale and the execution of whakairo, but also in terms of its emotional and thematic gravitas” by Pataka Art+Museum at Porirua director Reuben Friend in his review in Pantograph Punch.

Graham’s suite of carved sculptural shields were also curated into the groundbreaking exhibition Toi Tū Toi Ora, curated by Nigel Borell and exhibited at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki from 5 December — 9 May 2020.

In the last two decades Graham has exhibited in Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia, Canada, The United Kingdom, Hawai’i and at the 52nd Venice Biennale (2007, in collaboration with Rachel Rakena).