William McAloon

Behind the scenes

It was with much sadness that we heard of William McAloon's death last week.

His funeral is being held in Wellington today and our thoughts go out to his family and friends. Well known for his role as a curator at Te Papa William began his career in Christchurch where he was well regarded as a curator and art critic in the city's art circles. He was a great colleague and a curator whose exhibitions were always extremely well received. For me a highlight was the exhibition Gordon Walters: Print + Design which he curated for the University of Victoria's Adam Art Gallery in 2004. Insightful and illustrative, it was one of those exhibitions that I lingered in, absorbing every object and written description with delight and learning much about an, until then, obscure aspect of Walters's oeuvre.

The last time I heard from William was few weeks back regarding the auction of a selection of Leo Bensemann's paintings then on offer in Christchurch from which he was considering a purchase for Te Papa's collection. I always admired the ease with which he could shift between contemporary and historical art; he was one of the few curators with whom I could have in-depth discussions, usually over the telephone, about historic New Zealand artists-from memory, van der Velden, Chevalier, Fomison, Shurrock, Rata Lovell-Smith, Angus and Bensemann to name but a few. His insightful, informed comments and helpful nature were deeply appreciated: answers to questions about artists and art always seemed to be right at the top of his head.

Rita Angus: Life & Vision, which he co-curated with Jill Trevelyan in 2008, was one of the most popular exhibitions to be staged at the Christchurch Art Gallery–our audiences loved it and many made return visits. I am sure it was an exhibition that Rita herself would have been proud of, and for me it stands as a testament to the skill and craft William brought to curatorial practice in New Zealand.

Rest in peace William

William McAloon

William McAloon