Michael Parekowhai is an artist who can have a bit of a giggle, and he is planning to send his sense of humour off to the Venice Biennale.

Creative New Zealand announced yesterday that the sculptor and photographer is its pick for the 2011 event, which it will sponsor with a $650,000 investment.

The 115-year-old biennale is the largest contemporary arts show in the world.

Parekowhai's work is quirky. Recently, he has exhibited massive white elephants at odd angles at a K Road gallery, looking out at the road through glass cabinets - a nostalgic nod to his nana, he said.

"It was supposed to be a little reminiscent of grandma's china cabinet so when you walk past, it's like a little bit of those trinkets looking back out at you.

"Humour's a really important part of everyday life, especially with art. You gotta make them smile before you make them think."

Ten guitars - a nod to Maori performers - stuffed rabbits and outsized pick-up sticks have all featured in past pieces. Even family have been roped into works which look cute but have underlying social commentary.

He sculpted his older brother, who was working security for Burger King and called the piece Kapa Haka.

"I happened to catch him doing the graveyard shift and thought that's an interesting thing he has to do to make a living for eight bucks an hour or something else ridiculous."

The final concept isn't determined yet but there will be a definite indigenous angle to whatever he does for the biennale but with a contemporary twist, he said.