Pulling together the works that make up East 2016, Hastings City Art Gallery's biennial exhibition celebrating art excellence in Hawke's Bay, has been both "exciting and complex".

The exhibition opens on Sunday with Auckland's Hopetoun Brown playing an outdoor concert in Civic Square from 1pm.

Putting it together involves inviting a selector, in this case noted New Zealand artist Lisa Reihana; co-ordinating the arrival of the chosen works from the 51 different artists; curating the installation; getting it up; and then welcoming the crowds.

Reihana is an award-winning Auckland-based experimental photographic artist who will represent New Zealand at next year's Venice Biennale. Her job was to choose 51 pieces from the 120 submissions across a range of media from artists with links to Hawke's Bay - no easy task, says gallery director Toni MacKinnon.


One of the successful submitters was Misty Ratima, born in Hastings and of Maori, Pakeha and Indian descent. Her piece is The Constellations in the Sky, Eternal, Immutable, made up of seven portraits.

"I have created seven portrait pieces that are a personification and representation of Matariki (Pleiades) and the seven stars that make up this constellation. Matariki rises in the mid-winter months which, for Māori, heralds the beginning of a new year," says Ratima.

"Traditionally this is a time of mourning for those passed, celebration of new life and the gathering of food. Māori history tells a story of a mother known as Matariki and her six daughters named Tupu-ā-nuku, Tupu-ā-rangi, Waitī, Waitā, Waipuna-ā-rangi and Ururangi."

Hers is just one example of the "truly fantastic" works that make up East 2016, says MacKinnon.

"I really don't envy the job Lisa had to do in selecting these works. The competition was very strong. We have an exhibition that is truly worth seeing and a real encapsulation of the talent of our people."

Having an artist's eye do the selecting, rather than the more normal approach of using a curator, has given the exhibition a different edge, says gallery director Toni MacKinnon. "Our visitors will see a fantastic range of artworks that are definitely tuned in to the very varied perspective of the makers."

Gallery staff have put together a programme of events for the public related to the exhibition. Free activities include a people's choice competition with a prize pack for a voter; a pre-schoolers Art for Tots day; and a panel discussion titled: HMMM: How might artists thrive in Hawke's Bay? There are also school holiday art workshops for 6- to 12-year-olds which cost $10 and an artist's workshop for adults, costing $20 to cover materials. The events require participants to book; email: hastingsartgallery@hdc.govt.nz.