Mo te Upoko-O-Te Ika / For Wellington Photographs by Viggo Mortensen


Media Release: November, 2003. 

Coinciding with the world premiere of Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, Viggo Mortensen’s photography will be the subject of two exhibitions in Wellington this summer.

Massey University hosts a large survey of Mortensen’s recent photographic work from 29 November 2003 – 25 January 2004, while at City Gallery Wellington’s Michael Hirschfeld Gallery photographs of the Wellington region will also be on display from 29 November 2003 – 25 January 2004.

On Saturday 29 November Viggo Mortensen headlines a very special poetry reading at City Gallery Wellington. The event is a benefit fundraiser for the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University.

Viggo Mortensen, while well-known for his role as Aragorn in Lord of the Rings, is also a recognised photographer, painter and poet. His work has been exhibited in galleries in the U.S., Cuba and Denmark, and his work features in several publications.

"The photographs to be shown at the Michael Hirschfeld Gallery, and a large part of those made for the Massey University exhibition were taken in New Zealand,” says Viggo Mortensen. “It is an honour to be given the opportunity to bring these pictures “home," to a place and a people that continue to have a profound effect on me as an artist and will always have a place in my heart.”

“As a writer, I have been greatly inspired by the importance given to poetry and poets in this country, and I am thankful to be able to do my part in connection with Victoria University to promote that tradition as well."

Taken while Mortensen lived in Wellington to film Lord of the Rings, the photographs in the Michael Hirschfeld Gallery at City Gallery Wellington will offer a unique chance to see familiar Wellington scenes—Courtenay Place, Mount Victoria, Lyall Bay, Kapiti—through the eyes of an artist who has made strong connections with the region.

Mortensen's lyrical photographs are carefully observed meditations on life around him, and include portraits, landscapes and abstractions. His sensibility as a painter is a strong thread in his photography where colour, light and movement express the artist's often intuitive response to his environment.

Massey University will exhibit Mortensen’s abstract photographs in the two third-floor galleries of the Museum Building –Tokomaru, formerly the National Art Gallery. The building reopened in November, 2001 as home base for the University’s College of Design, Fine Arts and Music. The development was in partnership with the Wellington Tenths Trust.

Deputy Vice Chancellor Professor Ken Heskin says the University is delighted to be reforging the connections between the historic national building and the arts community of Wellington and New Zealand.

“So in that sense, the Viggo Mortensen exhibition is very appropriate, an occasion that Massey University is proud to be associated with,” he says.

“This campus has dedicated itself to being the ‘Creative Campus’, and this exhibition, and the support from many associated with Lord of the Rings, will assist the University to further develop its plans in that direction.”

Proceeds from the invitation-only launch of the exhibition, to be held in the Museum Building from 6.30pm on Friday, November 28, will go towards the University’s proposed School of Film. This proposal is subject to University Council approval.

The invitation to the Benefit Opening is being extended by Massey University Vice-Chancellor Professor Judith Kinnear, together with LOTR director Peter Jackson and screenwriter Fran Walsh. The pair received Honorary Doctorates from the University in 2001. A limited number of $100 tickets to the Benefit Opening are available upon application to

Pro Vice-Chancellor Dr Duncan Joiner says he’s delighted that Mortensen approached the University as a kindred spirit, recognising the creative spaces that the College occupies could also be a suitable showcase for his own work.

“Mortensen is unique in his ability to combine a highly-successful acting career with disciplines including photography, painting and poetry, and making these connections is also at the heart of what we do,” he says.

“He represents the range of passions and aspirations that we also aspire to, particularly our academic connections between performance design and drama, and in having New Zealand’s premier photography programme within our new School of Fine Arts.”

“It will therefore be an honour to host both him and his friends from Lord of the Rings at this Benefit Opening event.”

Viggo Mortensen will be available to the media at a press conference planned for the Theatrette, Museum Building, at 10am on November 28. Both exhibitions will be open to the public from 29 November.

Massey University will be open from 9am-1.30pm on November 29, then from 10am-4pm daily until January 25. It will be closed over December 24 – January 3. Entry by donation.

The Michael Hirschfeld Gallery at City Gallery Wellington is open daily from 10am – 5pm (except Christmas Day). Entry to the exhibition is free.


Saturday 29 November 2003, 6pm, at Paramount Theatre, 25 Courtenay Place, Wellington. Tickets $50.

BOOKINGS ESSENTIAL. Phone 04 801 3017 or email

Introduced by Bill Manhire, Viggo Mortensen will read his work alongside New Zealand writers Tusiata Avia, Hinemoana Baker, and Cliff Fell. All proceeds from this benefit reading will be donated to a scholarship fund for students enrolled in the creative writing workshops at Victoria University of Wellington.

MŌ TE UPOKO-O-TE-IKA / FOR WELLINGTON PHOTOGRAPHS BY VIGGO MORTENSEN is presented within the 360 programme – a full perspective on Wellington art and design, which is generously sponsored by Designworks. City Gallery Wellington is managed by the Wellington Museums Trust with major funding from the Wellington City Council.