A Nelson artist has received verbal threats and online comments about setting her gallery on fire over a painting depicting non-Maori women with moko.
Nikki Romney said the painting, Taking Tikanga to the World, shows a globally diverse group of young women wearing non-traditional moko against the backdrop of a famous portrait by Charles Goldie.
It was inspired, she said, by tourists visiting her gallery and proudly displaying Māori tattoos and an app developed by Te Wananga O Aotearoa for people to create a digital image of their face with "non-traditional" moko.
Romney has been slammed on social media for the "disrespectful" work and said yesterday a man came into her gallery accusing her of being a "f****** racist Pākehā" and threatened to bring her gallery down.
Police said they had received a report of a man entering the gallery and being verbally aggressive, but there were limited lines of inquiry to identify him as there was no CCTV coverage.
Information had also been received about online comments, which alluded to causing damage to property and this was being assessed, a police spokeswoman said.
Among the hundreds of messages on social media about the painting are a handful of comments about burning the gallery down.
"This concerns us greatly as there are two groups of people living in the gallery building, none of them with any connection to the gallery itself," Romney said.
She said people have the right to dislike or object to her art, but harassment and threats to destroy a business are not okay.
"Art is not meant to be stifled and if we live in a society where art is shut down or restricted, then I believe we have lost who we are - a diverse group of people from different cultures, generations, beliefs and values.
"Anyone, no matter their religion, cultural or political belief, must be free to express themselves," Romney said.
In a Facebook post that has attracted nearly 300 comments, Leanne White-Haverkamp said Romney had exercised her white privilege of taonga Māori within her art yet again.
She was referring to a painting by Romney last year of Nelson-born tribal leader, Huria Mātenga, draping a cloak in front of her naked, pierced breasts. The artist later apologised for any hurt it caused.
One man posted a photo of Romney wearing a witch's hat, drawing the comment: "Mmmmm try a painting of her on a broom ... she may fly away n leave Māori ta moko art alone."