Patron objects to Nicky Hager’s involvement in Venice Biennale.

A prominent patron of the arts has redirected funding for a major international project because of the involvement of Dirty Politics author Nicky Hager.

Dame Jenny Gibbs pulled her contribution to Creative New Zealand's entry in the 2015 Biennale at Venice next year after Berlin-based New Zealand artist Simon Denny recruited Hager as a researcher on his Secret Power exhibition.

However, Dame Jenny, a fan of Denny's, said it was not due to politics - she is a major backer of the Act Party - but she did not support Hager's involvement.

Dame Jenny told the Herald a recent blog and Metro article claiming she had withdrawn support for the project were incorrect.


Instead, she had contributed a "significant sum" to a new position, assistant curator to Venice for 2015.

A major contributor to the arts, Dame Jenny said the last thing she wanted to do was undermine the fundraising effort to get Denny's exhibition to the Biennale to represent New Zealand.

It costs Creative New Zealand around $700,000 and there is additional financial support from donors such as Te Papa and private patrons to the tune of around $300,000.

It's understood Hager's airfares to Venice and accommodation will be paid for by Creative New Zealand.

The Dirty Politics book, written by Hager, was an election bombshell based on hacked emails and social media material belonging to Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater.

Creative New Zealand said the "generous" contribution from Dame Jenny towards the assistant curator role was greatly appreciated.

The Metro article suggested Dame Jenny's affiliation with Act was the reason for her move against Hager's involvement in deciphering the Secret Power exhibition on the Five Eyes spy network.

In March, she donated $56,000 to the party. Her former husband Alan Gibbs donated $110,000 in 2011.


Act secretary Garry Mallett said Dame Jenny has been a big supporter of the party, both financially and through hosting fundraisers and functions.

Metro said Denny had not anticipated the way Hager's involvement would politicise his work.

Dame Jenny said she could not speak for another prominent patron, Michael Friedlander, who is believed to have withdrawn his financial support over Hager's involvement.

Mr Friedlander told the Herald he was not aware of the Metro article.

When asked if he had withdrawn funding for the 2015 Biennale project Mr Friedlander said: "No, no, I'm sorry I don't discuss matters like that with the media. It's got nothing to do with you."

The head of the Patrons for New Zealand at Venice, Leigh Melville, said donations from the likes of Dame Jenny and Mr Friedlander came from a foundation that supported numerous philanthropic ventures.

Hager did not want to comment and Denny was unable to be reached yesterday.

4 things about the Venice Biennale

• The 2015 Venice Biennale opens in June and runs for six months

• It involves 80 countries and attracts more than 450,000 curators, critics, collectors and visitors

• New Zealand has sent representatives to the event, held every two years, since 2001

• Each exhibition costs Creative New Zealand about $700,000. An extra $300,000 comes from private patrons.