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'Warrior artist' Ralph Hotere dies

Artist Ralph Hotere died earlier today in Dunedin, aged 81.

"Ralph Hotere was a major figure in that generation of artists writers musicians and poets who first gave us our own voice – a warrior artist whose works were always made in a great cause," arts commentator Hamish Keith told NBR ONLINE.

One of Mr Hotere's best-known work was Vive Aramoana, a political statement that recognised victory in the fight to stop an aluminium smelter being built at Aramoana, north of Dunedin, more than 30 years ago.

Former NBR Publisher Barry Colman bought the piece in 2002 for $210,000 –  then a record price for a work by a living New Zealand artist.

Mr Hotere was also known for his Black Paintings series, created during the late 1960s using black almost exclusively. His later work often referenced controversial political events, including the 1981 Springbok Tour of 1981 and the Rainbow Warrior bombing.

John Key was among those who paid tribute to the Otago artist.

The Prime Minister describes Mr Hotere as one of New Zealand’s most important artists.

“I extend my sympathies and condolences to the family and friends of Mr Hotere, who was one of only a handful of New Zealanders to be granted the country’s highest honour, the Order of New Zealand,” Mr Key says.

“Mr Hotere had a career spanning more than five decades and was a painter, sculptor and collaborative artist.

“His work is represented in major public and private collections both here and overseas.”

Mr Hotere, who suffered a debilitating stroke in 2001. died peacefully at midday in Dunedin, according to a statement issued by his lawyer, Judith Ablett-Kerr QC.

He is survived by his wife, Mary McFarlane.

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Comments and questions

May the man rest in peace, but what bunkum about Hotere being "an important artist". And how on earth would John Key know?

Hotere may have been a high-profile political activist - even an important one. But we have never had any actual evidence (underline that word) that he was actually a competent artist.

Anyone got any?

The art coteries have been having us on for years. But art has to be evidence-based. I'm afraid that splashing politicised or apocalyptic messages on boards or canvasses, and taking oneself seriously for doing so, doesn't cut any ice with many - except the seriously deluded or the seriously pretentious.

The same, I'm afraid, for Colin McCan't and the seriously untalented Toss Woollaston.

I'm afraid the tide is turning on this lot, and the "experts" are beginning to look pretty silly.

Barry Coleman may have heard the underground rumours - smart man.

Did he ever achieve international acclaim or was it just here in NZ that his work was exhibited?

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