Both of his parents were schoolteachers. Parekowhai spent his childhood and attended school in Auckland's North Shore suburbs. After leaving high-school, Parekowhai worked as a florist's assistant before commencing his BFA at Auckland University's Elam School of Fine Arts (1987–1990). Parekowhai trained as a high-school art teacher, before returning to Elam to complete his MFA (1998–2000).
Themes and style
- "...interweaves the canon of “high art” with cultural tradition, the handmade object with mass-produced tourist tat, the imported with the proudly colloquial. With the diligence of a cultural props person, he appropriates the already appropriated in a manner that is often humorous, at times uncomfortable..."
Despite the range of Parekowhai's output, his practice is linked throughout, both stylistically – a characteristic 'gloss' of high production value, and thematically.
Justin Paton of Art New Zealand said of Parekowhai:
They [Michael Parekowhai artworks] have a way of sneaking up on you, even when they're straight ahead. Pick-up sticks swollen to the size of spears. A photograph of a stuffed rabbit who has you in his sights. A silky bouquet that rustles with politics. Seemingly serene beneath their gleaming, factory-finished surfaces, Michael Parekowhai's sculptures and photographs are in fact supremely artful objects. 'Artful' not just because they're beautifully made...but also because they manage, with a combination of slyness, charm and audacity, to spring ambushes that leave you richer.
- On First Looking into Chapmans Homer – an installation of two bronze bulls on grand pianos, two bronze olive saplings and the figure of a stoic security guard was his entry in 54th La Biennale di Venezia in 2011.
- The World Turns – a life-sized bronze elephant tipped on its head and eye-to-eye with a kuril (Water-rat), commissioned by the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art.
- He Kōrero Pūrākau mo Te Awanui o Te Motu: story of a New Zealand river – an original Steinway grand piano covered in glossy red carvings. The piano is played at each of the exhibitions that it features in, for example in the 2012 Te Papa exhibition with works from Colin McCahon and Jim Allen.
There are plans for a public sculpture by Parekowhai to be placed in Queens wharf, Auckland.
- 2015 The Promised Land Queensland Art Gallery / Gallery of Modern Art, GOMA, Brisbane, Australia.
- 2013 The Past in the Present, Michael Lett at the Auckland Art Fair, Auckland
- 2012 On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu, Christchurch. Also at Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
- 2011 The Far Side Michael Lett, Auckland
- 2011 Te Ao Hurihuri Jonathan Smart Gallery, Christchurch
- 2009 The Moment of Cubism Michael Lett, Auckland, New Zealand
- 2009 Seldom is Herd, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, Australia
- 2009 Yes We Are One Day Sculpture, Wellington, New Zealand
- 2008 Jim McMurtry Maori Hall / Michael Lett, Auckland, New Zealand
- 2007 The Song of the Frog, Michael Lett, Auckland, New Zealand
- 2007 My Sister, My Self Michael Lett, Auckland, New Zealand
- 1994 Kiss the Baby Goodbye Govett-Brewster, New Plymouth. Also at Waikato Museum of Art and History, Hamilton.
- 1994 A Capella, Greg Flint Gallery, Auckland
- 1990 Choice! Artspace, Auckland
- 1992 Headlands Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney
- 1995 Cultural Safety
- 2011 54th Venice Biennale New Zealand Pavilion. Also at Musée du quai Branly, Paris, France
- 2014–2015 Black Rainbow, Te Papa Museum, Wellington
Awards / Honours
- Artist Laureate, Arts Foundation of New Zealand, 2001.
- Premier of Queensland Sculpture Commission, Queensland, Australia, 2011.
- Nga Toa Whahaihuwaka, Māori of the Year for Arts, 2011.
- Barfoot & Thompson, 90th Anniversary Gift to Auckland City, Waterfront Commission, 2013.
- ‘Top 50 Public Art Project’ awarded by Americans for the Arts, Public Art Network, 2013 Year in Review, for Blue Stratus, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, Arizona, USA, 2013.
- "Michael Parekowhai interview", Sally Blundell, May 14, 2011, The Listener
- "Special Agent Michael Parekowhai's Generous Duplicity". Art New Zealand. Retrieved 13 June 2015.
- "On First Looking into Chapmans Homer", 2011 The Arts Foundation
- "Million-dollar mammoth makes minister mad", October 17, 2012, Daniel Hurst, brisbanetimes.com.au
- "ARTIST NAMED FOR $1M SCULPTURE COMMISSION AT GOMA 5TH BIRTHDAY PARTY", November 26, 2011, qld.gov.au
- "He Korero Purakau mo Te Awanui o Te Motu: story of a New Zealand river, 2011". Ocula. Retrieved 13 June 2015.
- "Public Art: Michael Parekowhai's Light House". Auckland Council. Auckland Council. Retrieved 13 June 2015.
- Michael Parekowhai: The Promised Land (1st ed.). Brisbane: Queensland Art Gallery. 2015. ISBN 978-1-921503-74-0.
- "Michael Parekowhai". One Day Sculpture. Retrieved 13 June 2015.
- "Black Rainbow". Te Uru. Retrieved 13 June 2015.
- "Professor Michael Te Rakato Parekowhai". Creative Auckland. Retrieved 13 June 2015.
- "Michael Parekowhai (staff listing)". University of Auckland. 30 March 2014.
- Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki: Works by Michael Parekowhai
- Works at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
- Michael Lett: http://www.michaellett.com
- University of Auckland: http://www.creative.auckland.ac.nz/uoa/home/about/our-faculty/schools-programmes-and-centres/fine-arts/fa-academic-staff?target=186
- Artfacts.net: http://www.artfacts.net/index.php/pageType/artistInfo/artist/23488
- Artist biography on Occula website
- Queensland Art Gallery (2015) Michael Parekowhai: The Promised Land Queenland Art Gallery / Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, Queensland.
- Radio New Zealand National interview, 12 March 2011, Playing Favourites with Michael Parekowhaiww.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/saturday/audio/2472175/playing-favourites-with-michael-parekowhai
- Michael Lett http://www.michaellett.com/img/Parekowhai__Michael_-_full_pdf.pdf
- Bernard Osman Cost of State House sculpture rocketed to $1.9 million NZ Herald, 23 October 2014
- John McDonald Review: Michael Parekowhai's Promised Land delivers plenty The Sydney Morning Hearald, 5 June 2015
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