Arnold Manaaki Wilson

untitled (from Toki series)

1100mm x 155mm x 100mm


Private collection, Auckland.


Arnold Manaaki Wilson (Ngāi Tūhoe, Te Arawa), along with Ciff Whiting, Fred Graham, Marilyn Webb, Muru Walters, Ralph Hotere, Para Matchitt, Katarina Mataira and Selwyn Wilson...

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Estimate $4,500 - $6,500
Achieved $7,808.13
  1. Jonathan Mane-Wheoki, “Arnold Manaaki Wilson: The Godfather of Contemporary Māori Art,” Art New Zealand no. 96, (Spring 2000): 95.
  2. Peter Shand. ‘Weeks, John’, first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, vol. 4, 1998. Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 2 November 2017)
  3. Mane-Wheoki, “Arnold Manaaki Wilson,” 95.
  4. Ibid., 97.
  5. Ngahuia Te Awetokutu, “Arnold Manaaki Wilson: Te Wakaunua,” in Ngahiraka Mason, Turuki Turuki! Paneke Paneke!: When Māori Art Became Contemporary (Auckland Art Gallery, 2008), 89.
  6. Ngahiraka Mason, Te Taumata Exhibition Series: Arnold Wilson (NorthArt Gallery, 2010), u.p.

Insight, Aesthetics and Discipline

by Andrew Clark

Arnold Manaaki Wilson (Ngāi Tūhoe, Te Arawa), along with Ciff Whiting, Fred Graham, Marilyn Webb, Muru Walters, Ralph Hotere, Para Matchitt, Katarina Mataira and Selwyn Wilson, was part of what came to be known as the “Tovey Generation.” This group of artists and educators were trained by Arthur Gordon Tovey, a transformative figure in the history of arts education in New Zealand. He was the first person to suggest that the teaching of art in schools ought to incorporate a bicultural approach, acknowledging the depth and breadth of the Māori visual arts tradition. Tovey must have been an extremely charismatic and dedicated individual, considering that despite his lack of any academic art qualifications (although he had studied under H.L. Richardson at Wellington Technical College in the 1920s, alongside his friend Len Lye) he was made the arts and crafts supervisor at the Department of Education in 1946. In this role, Tovey began a scheme under which art teachers were given specialist training and technical skills, and Māori educators were some of the first recruits to this program, including Wilson and his cohort.

Tovey’s passion for education, and his commitment to the idea of New Zealand as a bicultural nation where Māori and Pakeha art traditions would both be relevant and celebrated, are clearly evident in the career of his student Arnold Wilson. Like Tovey, Wilson was a passionate educator, and his work reflects a modernist approach that was, at the time, met with confusion, if not outright hostility, by both the Pakeha public and Māori traditionalists. However, like visionaries throughout history, Wilson persevered, secure in the knowledge that posterity would prove him right. His intuition that both traditions could have something to gain from each other seems, in retrospect, to have been correct; through the contributions of Wilson and his contemporaries, the history of modernism in New Zealand has become inextricably linked to the Māori art movement. Whereas overseas Modernism often co-opted the art traditions of non-European cultures for its own ends (stemming perhaps from the Cubists’ interest in African sculpture and Japanese woodblock printing) in New Zealand twentieth-century Māori were in the unique position of being able to engage with Modernism on their own terms and to incorporate its strengths into a robust, pre-existing artistic tradition.