Thursday, 14 May 2015

Charles Heaphy 1820–1881

During the making of A Pioneering Spirit I was asked to provide an opportunity for a post-graduate student from the University of Auckland’s Art History Department. From my first meeting with Jacqueline Henderson I appreciated her curiosity for this early period in New Zealand’s art history. 

Surveyor, explorer, writer, company propagandist, topographical artist and draughtsman Charles Heaphy became Henderson’s focus, based on the works I selected for A Pioneering Spirit. Heaphy arrived in 1839 for employment with the New Zealand Company. He was an agent in the Company’s plan to systematically colonise New Zealand by surveying the land that his employers would sell to new settlers. Heaphy’s drawings, lithographs, watercolour paintings, charts and coastal profiles were used to promote the New Zealand Company and Heaphy would also file reports on his first-hand experience of life in the ‘colony’. After a 12-year service with the company Heaphy settled for life as a senior civil servant.

Heaphy’s story is as pioneering as the lives of individuals and families who came to improve their lot and contribute to the building of a ‘new nation’. Heaphy’s art illustrates aspects of both history and art history which continue to be unpacked by a new generation inspired by ‘the rise of New Zealand’.

– Ngahiraka Mason, Indigenous Curator, Māori Art

Charles Heaphy 1820–1881

‘. . . let man trouble himself little about the decadence of England but think about the rise of New Zealand . . .’
        – Anthony Trollope, The New Zealander

The period between 1840 and 1907 marks the arrival of British colonists to Aotearoa New Zealand. This colonial era was characterised by swift change which resulted from cross-cultural transformation and shifting boundaries.

Examining three artworks by Charles Heaphy which are included in the exhibition A Pioneering Spirit at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki reveals the idea of coming from ‘elsewhere’, the forming of relationships between Māori and Pākehā, and the establishment of a sense of belonging. The pictorial narrative Heaphy offers adds a unique perspective on a specific time in our ‘national’ history, right at the point when the relationship between Māori and the British was transforming New Zealand culture into a distinct antipodean identity.

Charles Heaphy was an English-born New Zealander. As a young 19 year old Heaphy departed Plymouth, England bound for New Zealand aboard the Tory on 9 May 1839. The Tory’s journey took four long months and the vessel set anchor in Queen Charlotte Sound on 18 August. Heaphy accepted the role as official draughtsman for The New Zealand Company, which required him to portray New Zealand in the best light possible to entice potential clients back in Britain. As such, he produced a large body of artwork which captured the hopes and desires of first wave colonials to New Zealand.

Although mainly recognised for his watercolours, Heaphy’s extensive oeuvre included working with pen and wash, lithographs and many sketches. The quaint illustrations of New Zealand life provided The New Zealand Company’s prospective clients with a sense of the familiar while encouraging the possibility of creating a new life unshackled by the traditional British system. Still apparent today is Heaphy’s ability to impart a sense of charm. In particular his landscape paintings retain an idyllic quality whereby the promise of a ‘better place’ remains as appealing today as it did over a century and a half ago.

Recognised, as one of Heaphy’s most famous images, A Sawyer’s Clearing in a Forest of Kauri, 1845 unapologetically represents New Zealand as a land full of economic prospects. As if from a scene out of Grimm’s fairy tales its progressive narrative is tempered only by the naïve sensibility which Heaphy’s style conjures.

Charles Heaphy, A Sawyer’s Clearing in a Forest of Kauri, 1845 
Dwarfed by the magnificent Kauri forest the gentlemen, dressed in civilised work attire, denounce any niggling doubts of a savage environment. Together, almost as if swaying to a tune they harmoniously labour undaunted by the huge task ahead. However, the enchanting illusion lay in stark contrast to the reality of working the dense New Zealand bush in the mid-19th century.

Heaphy’s artwork was typically shaped by the various employment positions he held. The first 12 years he worked for The New Zealand Company as a surveyor, explorer, writer, company propagandist, topographical artist and draughtsman; and then in 1848 he moved to Auckland where he took a role as a civil servant in the Survey Office. Early pioneers had to be resourceful, adventurist and determined to survive.

When he was 30 Heaphy began courting Kate Churton, the 21-year-old daughter of Reverend Churton. The couple married on 30 October 1851. Old St Paul’s, 1853 is a watercolour painting in memory of Heaphy’s father-in-law Reverend Churton. Immediately, the eye is drawn to the obelisk. The monument not only celebrates the first vicar of St Paul’s but also reflects the good relationship between father and son-in-law. In addition, the church setting highlights the importance placed on religious values in society and the Christian education of Māori. Clothed in traditional dress the group of Māori focus on a kneeling man reading from a book, most likely the bible, while two Pākehā men casually look on from the side. A didactic sense of salvation lingers while at the same time an unsettling conflict borders the scene with a garrison of soldiers walking in formation towards the entry point of the church highlighting impending British control. The political tension although evident is nonetheless characterised in a peaceful setting.

Charles Heaphy, Old Saint Paul’s, Auckland, 1853 
The arts can be a means of visually measuring cultural significance – be that visible or in Heaphy’s artwork, largely invisible. The dearth of Māori figures invigorates the perception of the ‘empty’ land. Equally, the Māori presented are affable, welcoming and compliant. As such, the narrative offered by form, facture, composition and perspective leaves behind a pictorial residue indicative of the Imperial British worldview.

Heaphy became the first ‘New Zealander’ to be awarded the Victorian Cross for coming to the aid of a fellow soldier in a skirmish with local Māori at Waiari, near Te Awamutu. It is the highest military award for gallantry in the face of the enemy available to British and Commonwealth soldiers. On many levels our first ‘hero’ is problematic both politically and socially; however, historically his work marked a distinctive point in the production of New Zealand’s cultural and political identity.

The desire to be seen and not forgotten – to be visible and not invisible to the world – meant early pioneers such as Heaphy looked back to Britain as a cultural anchor of identity while establishing themselves within a new society. It was a generation of transition in a liminal space where two cultures collided and altered one another. Over time Heaphy introduced a Māori narrative. The Driving Creek, Looking South, 1862 not only depicts the Gold rush in the Coromandel but also tensions over land.

Charles Heaphy, The Driving Creek, Coromandel, Looking South, 1862 
As the colonials scurry about the countryside in their eagerness to find gold, seated in the middle of the scene is a group of Māori. Here, Heaphy’s subtle style captures the political frictions between Māori and Pākehā. The central figure is an important Māori woman – the daughter of the local chief who had recently died. With rifle in hand, she silently yet poignantly delivers a Māori narrative by staking a claim to her land. The inclusion of her pictorial voice reflects Heaphy’s own observations, and might be seen as a moment in which the New Zealand Company propagandist, unwittingly or not, represents a real site of tension at the time – changing ideas about land ownership.

The voyage out to New Zealand transformed the British identity in terms of location, language and culture. Many first-wave colonists, including Heaphy, struggled to reconcile the notion of ‘home’ even though they ended up spending more than half their lives in New Zealand. Through his artwork, Charles Heaphy plays a significant role in identifying the journey of the colonial New Zealander and remains an integral actor in the construction of New Zealand’s cultural identity.

To commemorate his name, the Heaphy track, located in the Kahurangi National Park on the upper west side of the South Island, remains one of New Zealand’s great walks, and his artwork currently hangs in Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki as a celebrated figure in New Zealand’s history. 

– Jacqueline Henderson, Intern

Friday, 10 April 2015

Robert Ellis and Billy Apple

Robert Ellis visited the Gallery this week to view Billy Apple's exhibition The Artist Has To Live Like Everybody Else for the first time. I had earlier gone on a tour of the show with Billy where he told me about the genesis of many of the artworks. The public enjoyed meeting him as we were walking through.

During the mid 1950s, Billy attended night classes at Auckland's Elam School of Fine Arts on Great North Road. In 1958, he met senior lecturer Robert Ellis and they put together an art portfolio of Billy's figurative drawings and design work which was then submitted with Robert's support to London's Royal College of Art.

In September 1959 Billy started the College's graduate Diploma course in graphic design. He was assisted by a New Zealand government bursary under the aegis of the National Art Gallery, Wellington.

During the last year we hosted Robert Ellis' Turangawaewae exhibition, which coincided with the publication of a major monograph on his work.

For a superb and long-time selection of artist photographic portraits I recommend those taken by Jim Barr and Mary Barr on their Over the Net Studio site. They have made freely available one of the best sources for artist portraits in New Zealand.

– Ron Brownson, Senior Curator, New Zealand and Pacific Art

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Michael Parekowhai: The Promised Land

28 March – 21 June 2015, Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), Brisbane 

The word ‘retrospective’ comes from the Latin retrospectare, meaning ‘look back’. It must be quite confronting for a ‘mid-career’ artist working powerfully at full speed to be offered the opportunity of a retrospective: how to arc back in time, how to weigh up the balance of historical works, and how to present such a march through years of work while articulating a fresh perspective with necessary urgency. Michael Parekowhai: The Promised Land at QAGOMA is a fascinating and indeed spectacular response to this challenge. It is a knockout retrospective.

The exhibition appears to bend time as it spans the artist’s practice from 1989 to 2015. Conceptualised by the artist and beautifully curated by Maud Page, Deputy Director, QAGOMA, this exhibition is a tour de force that tips the notion of a historical assemblage of works on its head as 25 years of Parekowhai’s practice is summarised in a polished offering of absolute cohesion. It is described as an immersive environment for viewing art: a ‘memory palace’, and indeed the experience of being in GOMA’s vast, incredibly tough ground floor gallery space is transporting. Parekowhai is a consummate spatial thinker and his one-person incursion into this space is both fully confrontational and manipulative of the gallery itself while being acutely mindful of the audience’s experience.

The space is divided into thirds, which you move though as if in a Buñuel film or a de Chirico painting, experiencing a series of moody, intimate and unexpected encounters. In a somewhat voyeuristic state you enter through the back door of a two-storey coral coloured house (based on a dwelling in Sandringham, Auckland) to find a forlorn and gargantuan Captain Cook cast in stainless steel. Entitled The English Channel, 2015, Cook is found with friends, sitting on a model-making table, perhaps mid-voyage, exhausted and wondering where to from here.

The next space, what the artist calls ‘the homefront’, is entered through a massive Cuisenaire rod wall. This small entrance channels visitors out into a panoply of domestic-scaled rooms inhabited by perfectly attuned groupings of work that span time and references with alacrity. The strategem is an immensely canny one: to recast early works as if anew, making them, as the artist says, ‘a little sharper, a little speedier’. This tight, maze-like configuration tumbles you through claustrophobic non-museum spaces with rapid-fire surprise tactics. Visitors discover photographic images and sculptural works embedded in these prosaic rooms. Ideas take on disguises and double entendre abounds as Parekowhai alludes to religiousness and the military as well as the anxieties and obsessions of place and contemporary living.

On the first public day of the exhibition, in conversation with Page, the artist spoke about some of the drivers for the project: illumination, time, pace, sound and navigation. Memory collides and is warped with the immortalisation of moments: a lemon tree in a plastic bag is cast in bronze and humble golf balls on lurid Axminster carpet become a portal to the night sky view of Matariki (Pleiades) constellation from the Southern Hemisphere.

The third and final exhibition area is described by Parekowhai as the open space – the ‘back yard’ – with a particular reference to Australia’s vast geography. A voluminous space populated by the magnificent He Kōrero Pūrākau mo te Awanui o Te Motu: Story of a New Zealand River, the ornately carved red Steinway grand that featured in Parekowhai’s contribution to the 54th Venice Biennale 2011. Scattered around are cast bronze school chairs – the piano is for playing, and the chairs for sitting. The room is bathed in a coloured glow emanating from Rules of the Game, 2015, a flashing neon sign that reads ‘CLOSED’. The tension between rules and games are teased out here as Parekowhai navigates how to deal with the regulations of the institution, not breaking the rules exactly, but leaning up against the boundaries. It’s only at this moment that you look back, as any retrospective itself does, and see the second Cuisenaire rod wall. Gigantic and gaudy, it renders the viewer toy-like in scale. I know this is the exhibition’s endgame; however, I paused and watched people linger here, entranced, trying to rationalise it as Ravel-type torrents of piano sound washed the space and leaked back into the rooms, back to the watery liquid-like flow of Cook’s coat.

And the title? The Promised Land, 1948, is a rare self-portrait in which the artist, Colin McCahon, juxtaposes South Island landscape with biblical allegory and places a lit candle – a symbol of vanitas which connotes the transience of human life – at the composition’s centre. This painting, too, is divided into three intersecting spaces. Discussing his retrospective’s title, Parekowhai emphasised that the question was not ‘What is The Promised Land?’ but ‘Where is The Promised Land?’ 

Auckland will soon see a related work by Parekowhai, an ambitious public art project conceived for Queens Wharf. Meanwhile, three works by Parekowhai – Kiss the Baby Goodbye, 1995, Bill Jarvis, 2000 and Jeff Cooper, 2000 – are currently on display at the Gallery in the rehang of the contemporary New Zealand collection. 

– Rhana Devenport, Director

Thursday, 19 March 2015

E H McCormick Research Library Summer Art Archive Internship

This summer I was fortunate enough to be selected as the inaugural E H McCormick Research Library summer Archive intern. I was given the choice of a number of archives that needed accessioning, finally settling on the IKON gallery archive.

The IKON gallery, originally known as ‘The Gallery’ was active in Auckland from 1960-1965, run by Don Wood and Frank Lowe. It was one of the first dealer galleries in New Zealand and exhibited works by a number of leading artists – Colin McCahon, Ralph Hotere, Pat Hanly, Don Binney, and Toss Woollaston to name but a few.

The archive itself was varied and consisted of some 12 boxes, in a rather jumbled state. The archive contained everything from newspaper clippings, business receipts, sketches and plans, to personal correspondence between the gallery owners and artists. The sheer quantity of documents was initially overwhelming, especially considering the large amount of metal staples, pins, and paperclips that needed removing and replacing- finally being replaced with more than 800 plastic paper clips. This seemed like an insurmountable challenge! Fortunately for me, I had the invaluable guidance and patience of librarian and archivist Caroline McBride to help me find the way, and together we devised a plan of attack.

We defined categories for each of the types of documents and paraphernalia found in the archive, and I proceeded to work through the boxes identifying what they contained. It was important to decide if the boxes or files within them were organised in any particular way – known as original order. On ascertaining that there was initially an alphabetical order, it was decided to proceed with that, with some small adjustments.

Correspondence was sorted A-Z by artist, then the large quantity of business receipts and documents went into general folders, newspapers were put together, with any notable clippings placed into the A-Z correspondence files. Interestingly, there is also a full card index detailing all purchases and works left with the gallery during its run. This will make for detailed provenance information for many important artworks by leading New Zealand artists.

Due to the huge number of documents this took a significant amount of time, but the end results were well worth the hard work! The IKON gallery archive will be an incredible resource for researchers and the gallery. This is due to its fantastic primary material, with hand written correspondence from major New Zealand artists, and provenance information in the card index.

– Cecilia Lynch, E H McCormick Research Library Summer Intern

Monday, 9 February 2015

Learning through the Arts: What’s the value? How do you do it well?

Did you know that students participating in a one-off art gallery learning programme were shown to perform on average 9.1% better in their use of critical thinking skills than students who hadn’t? This improvement increased to about 18% for students from low socio-economic backgrounds, and students from ‘minority’ groups. 

Auckland Art Gallery Schools’ Team do lots of research into best practice in Arts learning (and learning in general), and into the impact of Arts learning on students within and beyond the subject. We integrate this learning into the programming we develop for schools.

We wanted to share with you a few things we’ve found really interesting and useful lately, that we thought would be valuable for classroom teachers, in the classroom too.

Crystal Bridges study

  • American study, focusing on what learning came out of a one-off gallery programme for school students 
  • Largest study of its kind involving 10,912 Years 1–13 students and 489 teachers at 123 different schools 
  • Results show critical thinking, recall, tolerance, empathy and cultural interest increase
  • Effect is greatest for rural, high poverty and minority students 

Visible thinking skills

  • A flexible and systematic research-based approach to integrating the development of students’ thinking with content learning across subject matters. Visible Thinking has a double goal: on the one hand, to cultivate students’ thinking skills and dispositions; and, on the other, to deepen content learning. By thinking dispositions, we mean curiosity, concern for truth and understanding, a creative mind-set, not just being skilled but also alert to thinking and learning opportunities and eager to take them 
  • At the core of Visible Thinking are practices that help make thinking visible: Thinking Routines loosely guide learners’ thought processes and encourage active processing. They are short, easy-to-learn mini-strategies that extend and deepen students’ thinking and become part of the fabric of everyday classroom life. 

 Projects that use visible thinking skills to explore visual art and beyond

– Christa Napier-Robertson, Schools Programme Coordinator

Photography's Auckland

Auckland celebrated its 175th anniversary two weeks ago. There was a true party feeling downtown. Tomorrow we mark 175 years since the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

The Auckland anniversary festivities included a street display of huge blow-ups from historical negatives held in the Auckland Libraries collection. It was the biggest display of large Auckland photographs that I have seen.

Curated by Mike Mizrahi as part of the 175th event, there was a sequence of about 20 huge blow-ups displayed along Quay Street. They attracted thousands of people during their 72 hour display. Few people would have seen as many local photographs dating from 1860 to 1960.

These mammoth photos were irresistible. Many of the images were used as backdrops for selfies. The murals became a montage of attractions simply because they share history as images. The large labels were informative yet they did ignore the names of the camera artists who had created these images.

There's a lesson to be learnt there – don't forget to credit artists' names.

This exhibition proves that the public are fascinated with photographs of where they live, especially if they are of such a huge scale that one can scan them for detailed information.

I didn't know before seeing the above details that men’s trousers in the summer of 1860 were sometimes made with double-seamed linen in an unbleached coarse-weave or constructed from raw cotton woven as a mid-weight duck canvas. Or that caps were frequent head day-wear.

I liked the way Mike chose the sites for the enlarged photos. The above image related closely to where the photo was sited. It showed the central city recruiting station during World War 1. Volunteers visited daily and the names of the successful applicant to New Zealand's army were named in the next day's newspapers. The Auckland suburbs that they lived in were also named.

In the profile that the New Zealand Herald produced about Inside Out Company's work for the Auckland anniversary Mike said "The selfie generation will really love this as it's a perfect backdrop for seemingly blending into history and somehow becoming part of it."

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

On the Mend: Part III

An update on the conservation of Woman with a Floral Wreath 

Last post, I described mending the tear, lining the canvas for support. Now finally I can give you an after treatment image.

Before Treatment                                     After Treatment
 To recreate the surface of the original paint where there was lost material, the areas of missing paint were filled with a putty-like material similar to the original ground, and the original surface texture was replicated using very fine tools. The fill was carefully retouched to match the surrounding original paint with a stable resin, which mimics oil paint well, and importantly has good aging properties. The resin remains fully reversible in solvents which don’t affect the original work should anyone wish to remove the retouching in the future. All this information is carefully documented.

(1) Detail of the tear before treatment (2) Detail of the tear after filling with white putty-like material (3) Detail of the tear after treatment.
The tear is in quite a challenging area with lots of flat colour. This can be more challenging than areas with a lot of detail. With a lot of patience and with the help of optivisors the project was finished. I look forward to seeing her on the Gallery wall soon.

– Genevieve Silvester, Paintings Conservation volunteer

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Installing the Lindauer Māori Portraits exhibition in Berlin

As a Registrar, I have been responsible for the logistics associated with the tour of Gottfried Lindauer portraits travelling to Europe. It has been a complex process that I have been working on for the last 18 months, with exhibitions in both Berlin, Germany, and afterwards in Pilsen in the Czech Republic in 2015. Like Sarah Hillary, I was a courier, but in my case I travelled on a passenger plane and was responsible for 38 paintings and 91 photographs of Māori travelling on four pallets from the collections of the Auckland Art Gallery, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and the Alexander Turnbull Library.

On arrival at Auckland Airport I oversaw the palletisation of the four pallets of crates in the Air New Zealand cargo sheds. The pallets were then loaded onto the aircraft.

After 29 hours travelling time, I finally arrival in Frankfurt where the crates were transferred to a Hasenkamp truck and we then spent eight hours travelling to Berlin. Thankfully it was a beautiful autumnal day for sightseeing. We arrived at the Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin, late in the evening, and the crates were moved into the exhibition space for 24 hours acclimatisation.

The Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin

Over the first two days we opened all the works on paper – photographic images of Māori and the Lindauer Visitors Book – and Ingeborg Fries, Paper Conservator, and myself condition checked the works to make sure they arrived in the same condition as they left New Zealand. And yes, they all arrived safely and in good condition!

The Technicians then secured the framed photographs to the vitrine panels and tested the positioning of the matted photographs within the vitrines, waiting for the Designer to finalise the layout.

The carte-de-visite photographic albums, and the Lindauer Visitors Book, were placed within glazed, locked vitrines, sitting on custom-made book supports.

We then started the process of opening the crates containing the Lindauer Māori portraits. One by one the works were condition checked by Sarah Hillary and Ina Hausmann, Paintings Conservator, prior to being installed by Lutz Bertram and his team of Technicians.

We worked with a wonderful team in Berlin, consisting of Conservators, Designers and Technicians, and the works looked amazing in such a beautiful building. Signage and banners were installed and we were ready for the dawn blessing of the exhibition Gottfried Lindauer: The Māori Portraits.

As dawn broke on that calm Tuesday morning, a large crowd of press and other dignitaries were welcomed to view the blessing of the exhibition by Haerewa (the Auckland Art Gallery’s Māori Advisory Group), supported by nine members of the Ngati Ranana Māori London Club.

So if you’re in Berlin over Christmas break, do visit the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin to see this wonderful exhibition, which is on display until 12 April 2015. The exhibition will then head to Masné Krámy Exhibition Hall, in Prague, Czech Republic from May to September 2015.

Members of Haerewa (Auckland Art Gallery's Māori Advisory Group), Ngati Ranana Māori London Club, Auckland Art Gallery Director and staff members, New Zealand Ambassador to Germany, descendants of the portrait sitters, and descendants of Gottfried Lindauer

– Julie Koke, Senior Registrar

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Art, artists and AIDS in New Zealand

Isn’t it frustrating that there are few ways to easily review historic broadcasts of New Zealand’s documentary film and television? Little of this material is straightforwardly accessible. While some thematically-based vintage moving image material is available, only a small amount is published online. One reason that vintage television material is difficult to access because of the demands of copyright.

We seldom encounter exhibitions which profile panels from New Zealand’s AIDS Memorial Quilt with moving images. So, I am grateful to curator-at-large (and photographer) Gareth Watkins for assembling Thirty; firstly for Ngā Taonga Sound and Vision at Wellington. A revamped and expanded version of the show is currently showing at their Auckland office until February 27 2015.

Thirty is a type of exhibition we infrequently encounter. I have never seen before a multi-part documentary about AIDS and its effects on New Zealanders. You can download the Auckland exhibition’s catalogue here. The Auckland exhibition includes additional material on women and AIDS.

The New Zealand AIDS Memorial Quilt was initiated in 1988 and is already dedicated to loved ones who died from AIDS related illnesses. The quilt is a multi-part artwork held, on deposit, by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. As a large-scale community-based memorial the quilt consists of 128 hand-crafted panels. All the panels can be viewed online. I have been wondering if the Memorial Quilt is actually the largest scale public art project yet attempted in New Zealand. Almost all of the AIDS Memorial Quilt was created by amateur artists.

On Monday 1 December, World Aids Day, I recalled that it is three decades since the first death caused by an AIDS related condition in New Zealand. AIDS has shaken up the art world everywhere. When City Gallery Wellington showed Robert Mapplethorpe’s exhibition (9 December 1995 – 20 February 1996) most visitors were aware before they visited the show that the artist (1946–1989) died of an illness caused by the AIDS antivirus. I wondered then, as I do know, if the manner of Robert's dying made people more curious about his art?

In New Zealand, during 1988, Fiona Clark made a multi-part artwork with photo-albums that address AIDS. These five albums remain one of New Zealand's most moving artworks dedicated to the lived presence of AIDS . Fiona's images are unforgettable and were created collaboratively with the people in the photographs. Her approach as an artist was ahead of its time locally and the significance of what she achieved is not yet widely understood. Written comments were added by each person to the album pages; reading these comments is like hearing the voice of each person speaking directly to you. Unlike Mapplethorpe’s art where the effects of AIDS are only apparent in his late self-portraits, Clark’s work is upfront and direct because it is so personal. Fiona and I will be holding a public conversation about her important 1988 project early next year.

The first exhibition in Auckland to address AIDS was Implicated and Immune – Artists Responses to AIDS (18 September – 18 October 1992) curated by Louis Johnston for the Fisher Gallery (now Te Tuhi) in Pakuranga. The show included artwork by John Barnett, Jack Body, Fear Brampton, Lillian Budd, Malcolm Harrison, Lesley Kaiser, Richard Killeen, Lily Lai’ita, Stephen Lovett, Richard McWhannell and Jane Zusters. The visitor programmes for this exhibition were the first occasion when local artists and commentators spoke publicly about AIDS and contemporary art. Early in 2015 Michael Lett Gallery will reprise the Fisher Gallery exhibition and return our attention to AIDS and artist responses.

For me, the combined effect of seeing the documentary footage included in Thirty is of a documentary collage focused totally on AIDS and its effect in New Zealand. This show is in fact built into one overall multi-part documentary presenting more than 180 minutes of ‘found’ footage, almost all of which has been publicly broadcast.

I recall the conversations I had during the early 1980s with the late Bruce Burnett, Nigel Baumber, Kerry Leitch and Neil Trubuhovich. This was at a time when amost nothing was being broadcast on local television about AIDS in New Zealand. Gareth Watkins's sampler now lets us review how AIDS was later publicised by on TV. This is a show that marks the 30th anniversary of the first New Zealand death from AIDS with respect. It is tough viewing yet it reveals the imminence of AIDS as an ongoing reality.

Image credit: 
Altered Lives 2012
In the Blink of An Eye produced by Bronwen Gray, animated by Sue Lim.
Stills Collection, The New Zealand Archive of Film, Television and Sound Ngā Taonga Whitiāhua Me Ngā Taonga Kōrero. 

With grateful thanks to Fiona Clark. I appreciate the assistance of Gareth Watkins and Paula Booker of The New Zealand Archive of Film, Television and Sound Ngā Taonga Whitiāhua Me Ngā Taonga Kōrero, Wellington.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

International art courier

I recently travelled to Europe for the installation of the Gottfried Lindauer: The Māori Portraits exhibition at the Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery), Berlin. I couriered the twelve biggest paintings that were too large for a regular plane cargo and had to go by air freighter.

My role as courier began when the crated paintings were collected from Auckland Art Gallery and taken to the airport for palletisation. From then on I was responsible for getting them safely to their destination in Germany.

The crates on the pallet, wrapped in plastic and webbing, ready to be loaded.

The only area of seating in the freighter was behind the cockpit, including a small kitchenette and bathroom. The seats are large and comfortable. There are no movies or alcohol, but you can make endless cups of tea and heat up your own meals when you feel like it.

Flying over Zagros Mountains in Iran

The trip involved stop-offs in Singapore, Chennai (Madras), Sharjah (UA Emirates) and Amsterdam. After two days of air travel it was still another eight and a half hours by truck to Berlin, but I arrived early on the 9 November just in time for the 25th anniversary of the reunification of Berlin. It was an incredible celebration and definitely worth staying awake for!

Balloons illuminating the Berlin Wall for the celebrations 

The installation of the exhibition took eight days and there was a wonderful team of people involved, including my colleague and Senior Registrar from Auckland, Julie Koke. I also had the chance to meet with conservators from the Alte and Neue Nationalgalerie ( Old and New National Galleries) who were interested to hear a bit more about Lindauer’s technique.

Presentation about Lindauer painting technique to local conservators.

Kerstin Krainer, conservator Alte Nationagalerie (second from left), Ina Hausmann (third from left) private conservator involved with the installation, Hana Striecher from the Neue Nationalgalerie (third from the right), Kristina Mösl, Head of Conservation Alte Nationalgalerie (second from right), and Sophie Matthews, Project Manager for the Lindauer exhibition. 

Māori representatives of the sitters in the portraits as well as a descendant of the artist came to Berlin for the various openings, much to the delight of the media and Berlin audience. Also present were Auckland Art Gallery Director, Rhana Devenport, Indigenous Curator and Lindauer expert, Ngahiraka Mason, and members of Haerewa (Auckland Art Gallery's Māori Advisory Board) including the Chair, Elizabeth Ellis.

Afterwards, I travelled to Prague to continue my research into Lindauer’s technique. I met with Theodora Popova, Assistant Professor (Restoration) at The Academy of Fine Arts, to examine a number of early works by the artist. Finally I visited Pilsen, the birthplace of Gottfried Lindauer and the location of another exhibition devoted to his work opening in May 2015.

View of Prague from Petrin Hill

– Sarah Hillary, Principal Conservator