Toi Art, New Zealand’s spectacular new art gallery, was officially opened by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at Te Papa on Friday 16 March.

The new $8.4 million art gallery spans two levels of the museum and is part of a major renewal of all Te Papa’s exhibition spaces.

Ms Ardern gave a clearly heart-felt speech that congratulated Te Papa on the achievement and saluted the talent and dedication of Te Papa’s Head of Art Charlotte Davy and her team, saying ““I know you have put your heart and soul into this project, and I thank you for taking Te Papa to its next place, on behalf of New Zealand.”   She said that the value she placed on the arts was why she had chosen the additional portfolio of Minister for Arts and Culture, adding perhaps only half joking, why finance minister Grant Robertson, was also her Associate Minister in this role.

She addressed the artists of New Zealand, telling them that she looked forward to a time when artists did not need to justify the role they play in society.

“For the artists, for the arts community and those that work around you in that ecosystem… your work isn’t about building tolerance, because we are more than a tolerant society, we’re a society that should celebrate who we are, that should be open to challenge, that should be open to the questioning of our conscience that only happens sometimes through the lens of an artist”

The previous afternoon, two days before the gallery was opened to the public, the Friends of Te Papa had an exclusive free preview.  Over a 5 hour window, hundreds visited the gallery, and listened to floor talks from curators Rebecca Rice, Justine Olsen, Nina Tonga, Sarah Farrar, Chelsea Nichols and Megan Tamati-Quennell.

Responses were overwhelmingly positive, praising the new spaces and the art on display.  It was in their words, “world-class… “exciting” and… “a fantastic achievement”.