Taking the edge off this cold and rainy weather is the plethora of fascinating, fulfilling and immersive cultural experiences on offer in Auckland this month. From photographic exhibitions to film festivals to opera, dance, live music and more, our July Culture Guide is here to detail everything you need to attend or book tickets to over the month ahead.
World Press Photo Exhibition
After a three-year hiatus, the World Press Photo Exhibition is making a triumphant comeback, set to take place from the 22nd of July 22 until the 20th of August at Smith & Caughey’s Queen Street. This extraordinary event is a haven for discerning photography connoisseurs, offering an immersive journey through the lenses of gifted photojournalists and providing an awe-inspiring display of the most exceptional images, meticulously handpicked from over 60,000 global entries. Not only will you be captivated by the unparalleled storytelling on display, but all profits from the Auckland event go directly to charitable endeavors, giving us all the more reason to make the effort.
Te Au at Sanderson Contemporary Gallery
Presenting an artistic collaboration between Simon Kaan (Ngāi Tahu, Chinese, Pākehā) and Wi Taepa (Te Arawa, Ngāti Whakaue, Te Āti Awa), Sanderson Contemporary unveils the extraordinary exhibition, Te Au, on now until the 30th of July. Set across two gallery spaces, works by both artists are on display, promising to take you on a transcendent journey that evokes a sense of whakapapa and friendship. Kaan’s brushstrokes dance upon the canvas, his new works on paper pulsating with emotion. Meanwhile, Taepa’s ceramic creations exude an ethereal quality, moulded from the sacred whenua. It is the melding of their minds and creative energies that ignites the magic within this collaboration.
United by a profound bond, Kaan and Taepa’s long-lasting friendship has forged a deep, artistic connection, evident in the seamless harmony of their pieces. Rooted in the traditional Maori philosophy of Tuakana-Teina, they celebrate the symbiotic relationship between mentors and learners and the transfer of wisdom across generations. This exhibition delves into the spiritual realm, drawing inspiration from Te Ao Mārama, the world of light, and the creation narratives that shape their worldview. With each brushstroke, clay sculpture, and shared narrative, Kaan and Taepa beckon you to explore the interconnectedness of the land, the cycles of life, and the enduring power of artistic expression. Prepare to be transported to a realm where the tangible and intangible intertwine, leaving a lasting impression that goes much deeper than the pieces alone.
Presented by Live Nation in association with Tātaki Auckland Unlimited, Elemental Nights is back and better than ever before. This year’s lineup is a true feast for the senses, featuring the electrifying UK rock band IDLES, the mesmerizing rapper Loyle Carner, the sensational Swedish pop superstar Tove Lo, and the beloved Bic Runga celebrating the 20th anniversary of her iconic album ‘Beautiful Collision.’ In an exclusive collaboration, Fazerdaze, Kirin J Callinan, and There’s A Tuesday join the roster, adding their unique magic to the mix. There will also be table talks with top chefs over curated dining experiences, immersive and interactive art installations, side-splitting live theatre, glittering city lights and more. On from the 20th of July until the 3rd of August Elemental Nights is the immersive, multi-faceted cultural event you don’t want to miss.
Cirque Du Soleil ‘Crystal’
Don’t miss your chance to be dazzled by the groundbreaking spectacle of Cirque du Soleil ‘Crystal’, a production that ventures into uncharted artistic realms for the very first time in the illustrious 39-year history of the company. This audacious show seamlessly melds the worlds of ice and air, with acrobats and skaters seamlessly intertwining their talents. Prepare to be awestruck as synchronised skating, freestyle figures, gravity-defying acrobatics and classic circus disciplines intertwine to create a truly extraordinary experience that will have you on the edge of your seat. Only on until the 10th of July, we suggest securing your tickets now.
The incomparable Lizzo, a four-time Grammy Award-winner, songwriter, rapper, flautist and singer, is bringing her critically acclaimed The Special Tour 2023 to our shores on Wednesday the 26th of July at Spark Arena. Her latest album, Special, has been praised for its disco-funk beats and charismatic anthems, cementing Lizzo’s position as a musical icon who has changed the sound and spirit of popular music and culture. Alongside special guest Tkay Maidza accompanying her on all shows, this is a tour not to be missed.
Get ready for a mind-bending theatrical ride like no other as Basmati Bitch transports us to an alternate reality where forbidden cravings collide with underground fighting. In this self-aware, neo-noir action-crime-comedy, retired fighter Shiva and the tenacious Bisma find themselves entangled in the treacherous world of illegal MMA. Playwright Ankita Singh’s inventive storytelling unfolds amidst a backdrop of contested borders, exploited labourers, and a crumbling empire. With its wacky characters, explosive stage combat, and an audacious blend of humour and darkness, this futuristic Pan-Asian romp promises to push boundaries and leave audiences on the edge of their seats.
Whānau Mārama: New Zealand International Film Festival
A particular highlight in our July Culture Guide, the country’s premier cinematic event, Whānau Mārama: New Zealand International Film Festival (NZIFF), is back with a captivating 2023 lineup. The NZIFF team has scoured film festivals worldwide to curate a selection of 129 full-length films and seven short film collections, showcasing the best of global cinema. From thought-provoking documentaries to Cannes Film Festival winners, animations to retrospectives, and everything in between, this year’s programme promises an immersive and diverse experience. With films hailing from 39 countries, including exciting emerging voices from Uganda, Senegal, Brazil, and more, NZIFF is offering a vibrant tapestry of culture and storytelling. Alongside the screenings, a number of international filmmakers will be coming to New Zealand to present their films in person, offering audiences the chance to get up close and personal with a range of respected practitioners and garner invaluable insight into how some of these exceptional films came to be. This year’s festival also returns to its regular format, spanning three weekends and featuring some of the best venues in the country. Tickets are on sale now.
Te Tomokanga ki te Pō
Prepare to be mesmerized by the ethereal beauty of Te Tomokanga ki te Pō — The gateway to the night — by artist Graham Tipene (Ngāti Whātua, Ngāti Kahu, Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Haua, Ngāti Manu) in collaboration with Hawke House, Angus Muir, Fresh Concept & Eke Panuku for Matariki on the Waterfront 2023. At Silo Park, standing at an impressive 26 feet, this luminous waharoa is a captivating masterpiece that seamlessly blends artistry and spirituality. The exquisite waka on either side of the waharoa symbolise the harbour, while the two internal pou embody the harmonious duality of male and female energies. The two hands and the bottom are the tupuna, Tumutumuwhenua, reaching through the earth. The centre pou is Whatu (Whātua) Kai Marie, a tupuna wahine of Ngāti Whātua. The nine feathers of Te Kāhu Pōkere above represent Te Iwa o Matariki. As twilight descends, this extraordinary installation comes to life infall its illuminated glory — a testament to the timeless power of indigenous storytelling and cultural heritage.
Die Tote Stadt
Lose yourself in the romantic music of forgotten genius Erich Wolfgang Korngold in the New Zealand premiere of Die tote Stadt — a heartbreaking psychological portrait of a man consumed by the past. Led by conductor Giordano Bellincampi and featuring a stellar cast alongside the New Zealand Opera Chorus, the show is on tomorrow for one night only (Saturday the 8th of July) at the Auckland Town Hall, and is shaping up to be a cultural highlight of 2023.
Marae in the Sky
Prepare to be spellbound by ‘Marae in the Sky,’ a transcendent performance at the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, created exclusively for Matariki and taking place on Friday the 14th and Saturday the 15th of July. Directed and choreographed by the visionary Taane Mete, this immersive dance and music experience pays homage to the celestial mother star, Matariki, while celebrating hauora, hope, reflection, and the interconnectedness of all beings with nature. Drawing inspiration from local Rainbow collectives and merging Māori mythology with real-life narratives, ‘Marae in the Sky’ boasts world-class choreography, mesmerising waiata, and soul-stirring music. With limited capacity, this is your chance to witness an extraordinary display of artistry in a truly unforgettable performance.
Black Grace presents Company B ‘I Am A Renaissance,’ By Neil Ieremia
Witness an exhilarating fusion of talent and creativity as lauded dance company Black Grace presents Company B ‘I Am A Renaissance’, taking place from the 19th of July until the 23rd of July. This groundbreaking initiative provides a platform for the next generation’s most vibrant young performers to shine alongside the established dancers of Black Grace. Under the visionary guidance of Founding Artistic Director Neil Ieremia, this powerhouse performance is set to be a testament to the renaissance of artistic expression.
Blockbuster Film Music
In a unique musical event like no other, the Auckland Concert Orchestra will, on the 22nd of July at the Auckland Town Hall, be performing beloved film scores from some of the iconic Hollywood movies. Here, audiences will be immersed in the drama, power and pathos of the silver screen. From the Star Wars suite to the haunting melodies of Schindler’s List, the orchestra will play pieces by the likes of John Williams, Hans Zimmer and Ennio Morricone in a concert that will transport you to a world of imagination and emotion. Accompanied by the glorious vocals of soprano Tayla Alexander and the virtuoso violin of Jim Wu, prepare to be swept away by symphonic magic. Suitable for all, tickets are on sale now. This is an experience not to be missed.