Kerry Ann Lee


NameKerry Ann Lee (she/her)
Country of BirthAotearoa
Place of ResidencePōneke Wellington
EthnicitiesChinese (Cantonese)
ArtformVisual arts, Design, Zines, Socially engaged art
Decades Active2000s, 2010s, 2020s


Kerry Ann Lee is an artist, illustrator, graphic designer, writer, educator, zine maker and distributor. Her distinctive collage artworks spring from a lifelong love of printed matter and punk and DIY fanzine culture. As well as exhibiting in art spaces all over Aotearoa, Lee has developed extensive international networks by connecting with other independent publishers and artists, and undertaking residencies in China, Taiwan, the USA, Mexico and Australia.

Lee is a third-generation Cantonese artist who grew up in Pōneke Wellington, where her parents ran a takeaway restaurant on Willis Street called the Gold Coin Café. Many of Lee’s artworks explore Cantonese diaspora life. Running through her work are themes of food, family and home, as well as a dream-like cultural hybridity that reflects the bittersweet history of Chinese settlement. Lee’s largest installation to date is Return to Skyland (2018–19), which was commissioned by Te Papa to be shown alongside Terracotta Warriors: Guardians of Immortality, presenting a contemporary, local Chinese response to the exhibition. Return to Skyland has since been acquired for the Te Papa art collection.

Stylistically, Kerry Ann Lee draws on a range of influences: from cut-and-paste punk posters and zines to Chinese paper cutting traditions. Her work has been used as cover art for several publications, including Nina Mingya Powles’s Magnolia, 木蘭 (2020) and The New Animals by Pip Adam (2018). Lee also created the promotional artwork for Nathan Joe’s play Scenes from a Yellow Peril (2021; 2022). She has been involved in many zine fest events and art book fairs, and since 2001 Lee has run Red Letter Distro, “a punk rock mail-order catalogue-cum-’occasional distro’ of zines, comics and artist publications”. Lee also occasionally DJs under the name Croque Madame.

Strengthening community and creating opportunities for mutual support have been a consistent focus for Lee. She participated in the first Chinese Arts Hui at Corban Estate Arts Centre in 2013 and subsequent gatherings. In 2018, she spearheaded the month-long Asian Aotearoa Arts Hui (AAAH) held in Te Whanganui-a-Tara, and continues to organise AAAH programmes as Creative Director. The programme featured a symposium and opening party at Te Papa, as well as talks, workshops, exhibitions and masterclasses at Massey and across the city. Between 2020 and 2022, Lee served as Tia Tuarua (co-chair) on the Enjoy Contemporary Art Space board alongside Natalie Jones.

Lee has taught design at Otago Polytechnic and Massey University’s College of Creative Arts (CoCA). She is currently College Director – International at CoCA’s School of Design. Massey is also Lee’s alma mater; she graduated from CoCA with a Master of Design in 2008.

Lee has taught design at Otago Polytechnic and Toi Rauwhārangi, Massey University’s College of Creative Arts (CoCA), where she is an Associate Professor at Ngā Pae Māhutonga, Wellington School of Design.


Key works / presentations

2021 — Ho Sun Nian, Courtenay Place Lightbox Park, Wellington

2019 — Perpetual Spring, Van Rensburg Galleries, Ap Lei Chau, Hong Kong

2019 — At the bottom of every wishing well is a mama asking if you've eaten yet, Silo 6, Auckland, curated by Adriel Luis, Kālewa Correa, Lawrence-Minh Davis & Dina Jezdic

2018–2019 — Return to Skyland, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington

2017 — Fruits in the Backwater, Pātaka Art + Museum, Porirua

2014 — Knowledge on a Beam of Starlight, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington

2013 — The Unavailable Memory of Gold Coin Cafe (exhibited in Hither and Thither), Enjoy Contemporary Art Space, Wellington, curated by Claudia Arozqueta

2009–2010 — Da Shi Jie/ The Great World: Shanghai Works 2009–2010 [大世界:2009–2010 创作于上海], Toi Pöneke Gallery, Wellington

2008 — Home Made: Picturing Chinese Settlement in New Zealand, Toi Pōneke Gallery

Key awards

2022 — Artist in Residence, Santa Fe Art Institute, New Mexico

2016 — Participating Artist, SOMA Summer 2016, Mexico City

2012 — Artist in Residence, AIRTaipei, Taipei Artist Village, Taipei

2009–2010 — Asia New Zealand Foundation artist in residence at island6 Arts Center, Shanghai

2009 — Fulbright Award to attend the Summer Residency Program at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York City.

Related entries

Last updated: 5 March 2024 Suggest an Edit


Photograph of the counter of a takeaway shop stuck onto a bright orange zine cover

Kerry Ann Lee, The Unavailable Memory of Gold Coin Cafe, zine, 2015

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Cover page of 'Paper bridges' interview with Kerry Ann Lee

Interview with Kerry Ann Lee, 2014. Te Papa

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Title slide with Kerry Ann Lee's name and the presentation title

Kerry Ann Lee, 'Realigning the margins', Helix symposium, 2015

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Photos of zines and people sitting at a table assembling zines

Kerry Ann Lee in collaboration with SOMA artists, D.U.M.P., Mexico City, 2016

Two-page typewritten letter

Letter from curator Claudia Arozqueta, part of The Unavailable Memory of Gold Coin Cafe zine, 2015

A table of zines with a banner reading 'RED LETTER DISTRO'

Red Letter Distro at BOOKED: Hong Kong Art Book Fair, 2020

'Return to Cloud Mountain', response to Return to Skyland by Nina Powles, Hainamana, 2019

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A collage of images related to Chinese culture and pop culture

Kerry Ann Lee, artwork for Scenes from a Yellow Peril by Nathan Joe, Auckland Arts Festival, 2021

Newspaper article with a photo of Kerry Ann Lee looking at her artist book

Jim Chipp, 'Pop art blends two cultures', The Wellingtonian, 31 July 2008