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