Cultural Icons

Conversations with iconic people

NZ Sculpture OnShore 2018

NZ Sculpture OnShore 2018

NZ Sculpture OnShore opens on November 3rd, running until the 18th of November.

See our latest interview with founder Genevieve Becroft for an insight into how this event grew from Genevieve's backyard to becoming New Zealand's largest outdoor sculpture exhibition, and one of the oldest, raising over 1.65 million dollars for NZ Women's Refuge to date.

Help Us Keep the Cultural Icons Project Alive!

Help Us Keep the Cultural Icons Project Alive!

The Depot Artspace is currently fundraising for Cultural Icons and we need your help to keep it going.

The Cultural Icons project celebrates people who have contributed significantly to New Zealand’s creative landscape.  This inspirational series of recorded interviews shares the histories, stories and experiences of some of our most significant visual artists, architects, publishers, entrepreneurs, writers, musicians, arts commentators and philanthropists.

They serve to show that New Zealand has a distinctive and evolving culture. So far we have undertaken 65 interviews which are viewed by more than 4000 people each month. Interviews include Stanley Palmer, Ian Wedde, Denys Trussell, Claudia Pond Eyley, Nigel Brown, Hamish Keith, Roger Horrocks, Barry Brickell, Riemke Ensing, Eve de Castro Robinson, Helen Pollock and Gordon McLauchlan. You can watch them all via our episodes page

Funding has so far come from a number of sources and is now expended yet we still have many Cultural Icons waiting to be interviewed. We aim to fundraise enough for 5 new interviews and YOU can help to keep this important project and resource alive!

Please get involved and visit


Cultural Icons Autumn 2013 Newsletter

Cultural Icons Autumn 2013 Newsletter

We have just released our first Cultural Icons Newsletter in print and in colour!

Our Autumn 2013 issue includes a tribute to Rodney Wilson, Denys Trussell's new poetry book, Nigel Brown's interview with Forbes Magazine, exhibitions from Dean Buchanan, Barry Brickell, Gifford Jackson, Helen Pollock and Bob Ellis along with much more exciting news from our Cultural Icons! You can read our PDF version online or come into the Depot Artspace and pick one up.

Cultural Icon Rodney Wilson Passes Away

Cultural Icon Rodney Wilson Passes Away

Rodney Wilson, one of New Zealand’s most influential museum and gallery directors died on 27 April 2013

After a long battle with cancer, Rodney Wilson, Cultural Icon, interviewer and a great friend of the Cultural Icons project has passed away. His influential career in the cultural field saw him lead a series of organisations, museums and galleries in a manner that revolutionised the way New Zealand displayed, consumed and distributed art and historical artifacts.

Rodney’s passion for art and culture saw him lead institutions such as the Auckland War Memorial Museum, the Auckland Art Gallery, and the  Robert McDougall Art Gallery (now called the Christchurch Art Gallery) through significant periods of growth, refurbishment and bringing them at par with some of the most high calibre art repositories in the world.

His passion for New Zealand’s maritime history and the sport of sailing saw his establish the New Zealand National Maritime Museum from scratch – without funding, collections or site – and built the first authentic scow in 70 years (the Ted Ashby).

Along with his exceptional management and board roles, Rodney was significant in shifting the way museums and galleries in New Zealand collaborated with each other for the securement of international touring exhibitions, lobbying central government for improved conditions and, that way, significantly shifting the quality of New Zealand’s cultural landscape.

Our deep condolences to his wife, Maureen, children and all the friends he left behind. 



Summer 2012-2013 newsletter

Welcome to the summer 2012-2013 edition of the Cultural Icons newsletter.


PREVIEW THE LATEST EPISODE: Nigel Brown interviewed by Richard Wolfe


Peter Lange and Richard Fahey

November saw one of the busiest weeks we have had in a while in the Cultural Icons' calendar. We are pleased to announce the recording of three new episodes (with more to come) to this series. This time, and with the generous support of Auckland Council's Arts North, Cultural Icons has focused on un-earthing and celebrating the lives of icons, which you nominated, who live in the Northern suburbs of the Super City or whose artistic influence has impacted on this area.
The interviews have so far included:

•    Terry Stringer interviewed by Dr Mark Stocker:
Terry Stringer a leading New Zealand sculptor who graduated with Honours in 1967 from New Zealand's premier art school, Elam School of Fine Arts. In the following years he received virtually every significant scholarship and award available to New Zealand artists. He is a key figure in the history of art in New Zealand, a sculptor with an established reputation. This was acknowledged in 2003 when he was the recipient of the ONZM (Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit).

•    Robert Ellis interviewed by Claudia Pond Eyley:
Robert Ellis is one of New Zealand’s pre-eminent artists. Throughout his life, he has taken on a variety of roles: adventurer, explorer, artist, teacher and family man. He is a great communicator and storyteller, which is evident from his work. Born in England, Ellis combines many elements of European and Pacific cultures while exploring New Zealand's national identity.

•    Peter Lange interviewed by Richard Fahey (pictured above): Peter Lange is a ceramicist, sculptor and potter whose CV is testament to a life well-lived: freezing works labourer, gold prospector, salt-firing in Italy, silver-cleaner at Buckingham Palace, director of the Auckland Studio Potter's Teaching Centre and once b
uilt a 2 tonne, 6 metre long brick boat that floated in the Auckland Harbour (it featured in "Believe it or Not").

•    Also War
wick Freeman was recently interviewed by Damian Skinner: Warwick Freeman  is a - largely self-taught-  jeweller. He regularly exhibits in New Zealand and Australia, as well as in Europe and the USA. His works are held in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney; Auckland Museum; the Dowse Art Museum, Lower Hutt; the Danner Stiftung, Munich; the Helen Drutt Collection, Philadelphia; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; and Te Papa, Museum of New Zealand, Wellington. In 2002 he was recognised by the Françoise van den Bosch Foundation, based at the Stedelijk Museum, who named him their 2002 Laureate, in the same year he received an Arts Foundation Laureate Award.
Keep and eye out for announcements of when these discussions will be live on Cultural Icons.
The hugely successful Cultural Mapping exhibition in August, Sum of the Parts showcased many of our Cultural Icons. The work of Margaret Lawlor-Bartlett, Riemke Ensing, Gil Hanly, Denys Trussell, Helen Pollock, Dean Buchanan and Nigel Brown was represented between the three venues at Mangauika/North Head Barracks, the Depot and the Museum of the Vernacular at Kerr Street. You can check out a write up and images from the impressive opening by clicking here.

The Museum of the Vernacular opened with exhibition Lounge on 17 November 2012 to coincide with the Devonport Arts Festival. As part of this, recently interviewed Cultural Icon Miriam Cameron exhibited in the recent Peace Space exhibition. Miriam’s VAANA work ‘The Oarsmen’ joined the likes of Nigel Brown’s Parihaka and Peace Note works. Nigel Brown now has two Cultural Icon interviews, the first with writer and musician Denys Trussell and the second with author and curator Richard Wolfe.

Falls the Shadow, by Cultural Icon Helen Pollock
The Cultural Icons project will feature in the Depot’s upcoming publication In Search of the Vernacular. In Search of the Vernacular is a collaborative publication documenting the response of New Zealanders to these three driving questions that underpin the whole of the Depot’s Cultural Mapping project: 
  • What comprises Aotearoa New Zealand’s cultural identity?
  • What is it about Aotearoa New Zealand and New Zealanders that sets us apart?
  • What is culturally significant to you as a New Zealander?
Cultural Icons Nigel Brown, Barry Brickell, Helen Pollock, Tony Watkins and Dean Buchanan will feature in In Search of the Vernacular with their own perspectives on Aotearoa New Zealand’s identity.
The Museum of the Vernacular's emblem (above - designed by Nigel Brown) has recently been transformed DIY-style using, as Nigel Brown says, “rusty obsolete machinery and buckled weathered timber, corrugated iron, old rope, lead paint, binder-twine…” into a 1300mm x  by 3000mm (approx.) representation by Robyn, Ruby and Neville. It now resides on the front of the Museum of the Vernacular at Kerr Street. Thanks Mitre 10, Nigel, Robyn, Ruby, Neville and Baxter!
We would like to pass on to Rodney and Maureen Wilson our best wishes as they settle into their new home in Mt Wellington.
And our warm wishes and thanks to each of you for your continued contribution to the unique cultural landscape of New Zealand Aotearoa
You can receive updates on the Cultural Icons project at: 

Kind regards,

Winter newsletter

Winter newsletter

Cultural Icons winter newsletter

 Dear Cultural Icons follower:

Welcome to the winter edition of the Cultural Icons newsletter.
This issue outlines the Cultural Mapping exhibition, opening in August, a culmination of all the work undertaken so far in the Cultural Mapping project. It is also a prelude to the launch, in October, of the Museum of the Vernacular in the Depot’s Kerr St building. Each of these initiatives has their origins in the Cultural Icons series where most participants described or indicated a distinctly NZ vernacular or identity, developed from shared history, geography and social phenomena.
We are delighted to have a number of Cultural Icons participate in the mapping exhibition, developing their own maps which are both personal and social commentaries, or featuring as a part of others’ maps.
•    Nigel Brown has contributed a series of paintings which relate to events: from Parihaka and nuclear-free NZ to the anti-Springbok tour protests and beyond as part of NZ’s history of social protest. Nigel will also be exhibiting a large painting on canvas titled after ‘The Museum of the Vernacular’.
•    Dean Buchanan has produced maps on canvas of Lone Kauri Road, Karekare, and the creative people who live and have lived there.
•    Alex Taylor, a young composer and convener of Intrepid Music project, is constructing an audio-visual map of the development of NZ classical music from Douglas Lilburn to the present and which features Peter Scholes and Eve de Castro Robinson.
    Recent Cultural Icons interviewee Helen Pollock will be exhibiting sculptural work which reflects on her connections.
•    The Peace Map/Installation particularly features many Cultural Icons, including Margaret Lawlor-Bartlett, Riemke Ensing, Gil Hanly, Tony Watkins and Denys Trussell to name a few. If you have had a place in addressing issues of peace or social justice we would like to add your name and hear your stories; for example... The Depot's own Linda Blincko remembers sharing a cell at the Otahuhu police station with C.K Stead and his wife Kay during the Springbok Tour protests and the constant presence of John Miller among the crowd documenting on film the protest marches.


Hellen Pollock interviewed by Rodney Wilson
Miriam Cameron interviewed by Denys Trussell
BLAST! - Edmiston gallery , New Zealand Maritime Museum from 10 July-13 November.
The anti-nuclear paintings of Pat Hanly and documentary photography of Gil Hanly will be on display to celebrate and commemorate the 25th anniversary of New Zealand passing nuclear free legislation. The exhibition will also be accompanied by a selection of photographs from the museums collection taken by Brian Latham that document the journey of “the brigantine Breeze when she was the flagship for the protest flotilla to the French nuclear testing at Mururoa in the Pacific”.

NIGEL BROWN ( Artist’s talk, Thursday, 12 July, 2pm at The Depot
We are pleased to invite you to attend an artist’s talk on Thursday, 12 July, 2pm at The Depot by artist Nigel Brown.
Nigel is one of the exhibitors in the upcoming Cultural Mapping Project exhibition ‘SUM OF THE PARTS’. He will be exhibiting new and recent work about cultural identity and peace in Aotearoa New Zealand which will inform the direction of his talk. Everybody is welcome and it would be great to see you here.
Nigel will be in Auckland to celebrate his solo exhibition ‘Joe Taihape’ at Whitespace gallery, 12 Crummer Rd, Ponsonby which opens on the 10 and closes on 28 July.
ROGER HORROCKS ( has written the libretto and EVE DE CASTRO ROBINSON ( composed the music for a soon-to-be-launched opera based on the life of New Zealand's great kinetic sculptor Len Lye. Len Lye - The Opera is an unique mix of music, poetry, theatre, dance, costumes, set design and film, with a cast of top national and international singers, musicians and performing artists. The opera runs from 5-8 September, at The Maidment Theatre in Auckland. For bookings and more information click here
GEOFFREY JOHN CHAPPLE ( subject of our very first Cultural Icons interview, was awarded an ONZM for services to tramping, tourism and literature in the recent Queen’s Birthday and Diamond Jubilee honours. Our congratulation to Geoff for a much deserved recognition.

BILL DIREEN ( will be featured in Radio New Zealand's programme, Sound Lounge, this coming Tuesday 10 July, alongside pianist Jonathan Crayford. They will be broadcasting the long poem project "Poem-Piano" which was recorded in the reception lounge of the New Zealand Embassy in Paris, in June 2010.
BARRY BRICKELL ( is currently a visiting writer at the Michael King Writers’ Centre in Devonport working on a wide range of writing projects. Barry, whose close relationship with The Depot extends for many years will also be participating in a few future Depot initiated projects. We will keep you informed.
PETER SMITH ( New Zealand’s most influential art educator since the Second World War, died on 8 May, 2012 aged 86 years. Our condolences to his family and friends. For an obituary written by Cultural Icon Rodney Wilson please click here.
You can receive updates on the Cultural Icons project at: 

Kind regards,