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Reading an artwork

Click on this links below to view a video showing examples of how people engage with art that they have seen
in Toi Te Papa. (requires Windows Media Player)

Choose the video most suited to your Internet connection:


When you view an artwork for the first time, it can be helpful to start by trying to describe the artwork. Ask yourself some of the following questions - they might help to give the artwork a context.

  • What is the work called?
  • Who is the artist and when was it made?
  • What kind of artwork is it?
  • What can you see?
  • What was happening in the world around the time that the artwork was made?
Next look to see how the artwork has been put together - key words for this include composition, colour, proportion, texture, pattern, contrast, depth.

Once you have checked out when and how the artwork was made, try thinking about why the artwork was made.

  • Is the artist trying to communicate to the viewer?
  • What are they trying to say through the work?
  • How does it make you feel?

Often information on the artwork label can help with these questions.


Then you could consider your personal response further.

  • Do you like the artwork?
  • Do you think it is good?
  • Is it an important artwork?
  • Should it be on display in the Museum?
  • Would you have the artwork in your own home?
  • If you could give the artwork to someone who would it be? 

Toi Te Papa offers a wide range of artwork to engage with. Visiting with friends or family can often add
to your experience - share favourites, discuss your different viewpoints.


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