Lower Hutt's Dowse Art Museum has cancelled an exhibition by a Mexican artist because its use of water from a morgue upset Maori.
The museum had planned to display Mexican artist Teresa Margolles' work So It Vanishes, described as one of her most important works, from Saturday.
The work is an empty room filled with floating bubbles which "creates a scene of unearthly beauty, underscored with a sense of unease when one realises the water utilised has formerly been used to clean corpses".
However, after months of negotiations with Te Atiawa about its appropriateness, the museum this week decided to can the exhibition.
Dowse director Cam McCracken said that in the end it was decided the Margolles piece would sit "uncomfortably" alongside one of the museum's major treasures Nuku tewhatewha.
It is one of only seven pataka - store houses, usually for food - built around the North Island to show support for the Kingitanga movement in the 1850s.
Natural resources adviser for the Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust, Liz Mellish, told NZ Newswire iwi could not countenance the idea of the bubbles falling on people's heads and bodies and then they would be moving on to the pataka.
"It's inviting death in, so culturally it's really, really unsafe."
She commended the museum for making the decision to cancel the exhibition.
If it had gone ahead there would have been no blessing and they would have asked for the pataka to be "put to sleep", or closed for the period.
Ms Mellish said the bubble work was not comparable with the display of items such as Egyptian mummies, as the bubbles would be touching people's heads, which are considered sacred.