Gauguin’s World: Tōna Iho, Tōna Ao: how to get tickets to major National Gallery of Australia exhibition

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Lush, palm-fringed and light years from the Paris stock exchange where he once worked as a broker, Tahiti and the Marquesas Islands seduced Paul Gauguin into creating some of the most celebrated paintings in the history of art.

Gauguin’s portrayals of beautiful Pasifika women and steamy tropical landscapes made him famous after his death in 1903, and individual works have recently sold in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

French-born Gauguin – also renowned for having a turbulent friendship with Vincent van Gogh and a creative influence on Pablo Picasso – will return to the Pacific region when Gauguin’s World: Tōna Iho, Tōna Ao opens at Canberra’s National Gallery of Australia on June 29. Tickets go on sale today.

Canberra exhibition brings Gauguin's celebrated works back to the Pacific region

Gauguin’s World would be the biggest showcase of the post-impressionist’s work ever seen in Australia, NGA director Nick Mitzevich said, spanning paintings, drawings, engravings, sculptures and the decorative arts.

Henri Loyrette, the former director of the Musée du Louvre and Musée d’Orsay in Paris, curated the exhibition and worked closely with the NGA and organiser Art Exhibitions Australia.

The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Louvre Abu Dhabi and Tokyo’s National Museum of Western Art are among 65 international lenders to the show, which was six years in the making.

The perspective of Pasifika First Nations people is often overlooked in Gauguin exhibitions around the world, but are front and centre of Gauguin’s World: Tōna Iho, Tōna Ao.

“We make the Pacific the important backdrop for the project,” Mitzevich said. “It’s never been done.”

Traditional Tahitian knowledge holders last week conducted a karakia, or welcoming ceremony, at the NGA in advance of the exhibition.

Tahiarii Yoram Pariente, of Raiatea in the Society Islands, and his mother Hélene Lee Tin Hin, invoked peace and respect for the people and lands of the Pacific.

“Tahiti made Gauguin, not the other way around,” Pariente said.

Gauguin’s six years in the islands left behind an astounding legacy, including some bitterness.

“It’s his activities with younger women and his colonial behaviour,” Pariente said.

“It was a bit of an easy way for white fellas to just come into Indigenous country and take over permission for pretty much everything.”

Also on view as part of the ticket price will be an adjunct exhibition organised by SaVĀge K’lub, of which Pariente is a founding member. The exhibition will include 200 Pasifika artworks.

Pariente said Tōna Iho was a person’s life essence, and Tōna Ao was a person’s world.

Gauguin’s World: Tōna Iho, Tōna Ao will be on view at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, from June 29 until October 7. Tickets can be purchased via this link.

Originally published as National Gallery of Australia to celebrate Pacific perspectives in Paul Gauguin exhibit