I’ve been conscious of Riga since the 1980s when I organised an exhibition of the work of Australian artist Imants Tillers for the former National Art Gallery in Wellington. Although born in Sydney, Latvian was spoken at Tillers’s home and the city’s name features from time-to-time in his work, including the large multiple-canvas board painting bought for the NAG collection – Diaspora (1992). But my awareness of Latvia’s politics and past history was minimal until my visit.
Welcome to Christchurch Art Gallery’s first Bulletin of 2018, B.191.
In this issue, Roger Collins looks at the Pacific etchings of eighteenth-century French artist Charles Meryon, who sailed around New Zealand on the Rhin, visiting the French settlement of Akaroa in 1843. Meryon continued to create images of the South Pacific throughout his life as exemplars of a possible alternative to the ‘social hell of a great European city’.
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.
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.
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 Waiwhetū 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.
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.
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.