As I write this, I’m still smiling with pleasure and pride at the huge success of the Gallery Foundation’s fundraising drive for our own work by Ron Mueck. Wonderful in its own right, it’s amazing to finish the 2017 calendar year knowing a sculpture by Mueck is now on its way to join the other four ‘great works’ for Christchurch.
However cold or wet it is as I write this (and certainly it’s raining at present), our September Bulletin heralds the coming of spring, and with it, the promise of growth, renewal and hope.
Sometimes I feel inordinately proud of this gallery and especially of my colleagues. I wonder if it’s unreasonable or otherwise questionable. However, as I write, I don’t think so.
Welcome to 2017! We’ve all bounced back to work at our favourite gallery – and we’ve loved seeing a range of familiar faces at our exhibitions and events as well as the many new visitors enjoying what we have on display.
Anticipation and Reflection
This is a time of considerable anticipation at the Gallery: Bridget Riley’s new work for Christchurch is due for completion in late May 2017. A wall painting, it’s the fourth of five significant works chosen to mark the long years of our closure for seismic strengthening following the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010–11. It has been paid for, sight unseen, by a group of wonderful women donors, with further support for costs associated with its installation secured by auction at our Foundation’s 2016 gala dinner.
It is exactly ten years since I wrote my first foreword for Te Puna o Waiwhetu Christchurch Art Gallery’s Bulletin. Then, the shadow of an elongated sculpture by Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti featured on the front cover of B.147, as we heralded the arrival of Giacometti: Sculptures, Prints and Drawings from the Maeght Foundation in November 2006. Toured by the Art Gallery of New South Wales, it was memorable and moving, and looking its very best here in our high-ceilinged and relatively new gallery spaces.
It’s hard to fathom just how much has happened since, both in and around our inner-city art gallery. In particular, I look back on our five years of closure with a mixture of wonder and disbelief.
Another Big Step Forward
Since mid July we’ve been enjoying the first major exhibition change downstairs. While it was difficult to say goodbye to Unseen and Op + Pop – and to be rid of the colourful castor sugar (some 600kg were required) with which Tanya Schultz made Pip & Pop’s Newest New World – it’s now so rewarding to be the final venue for City Gallery Wellington’s exhibition of Kāi Tahu photographer Fiona Pardington’s A Beautiful Hesitation. Designing the display and augmenting the content of this show for our audiences feels like another big step towards being fully operational.
Reopening, Redesigning and Returning
When I wrote my foreword for B.182, we were edging closer and closer to reopening; still anticipating this major milestone after almost five years. Having made the vaguely reckless decision to open our doors, come what may, at 10am on 19 December 2015 – a mere week after project completion – we stuck to that deadline.
Today is the fifth anniversary of the February earthquake of 2011 which devastated Christchurch. During that time, we and our city have been through so many different phases.
Everything is going to be alright
The cover of Bulletin 181 in September 2015 featured a miscellany of crates in storage, several marked fragile, one weighing 156kg, some with arrows indicating which way up they should be, others instructing the reopener to lay it flat first. Some bear an image of what’s inside. Ralph Hotere’s Malady Panels and Julia Morison’s Tootoo are there, one with a label, the other with an image of the installed piece. As I write this our collections remain in storage. A few new works and some which have been on loan are awaiting return from storage within other institutions.