The role of Visitor Host at Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna O Waiwhetū is full of contrasts; never more so than now, during the Ron Mueck exhibition.
Out front on the ticket tills, there is a seemingly endless stream of visitors, all eager to get in to see the exhibition as quickly as possible. Individual visitors continually approach the gallery staff with interesting questions about this exhibition and the gallery in general. Thank goodness for the new eftpos chip cards: the 'Please Wait' message is sometimes the only rest we get.
Inside the exhibition, we've rapidly become adept at helping people turn off the flash on digital cameras, fielding often detailed enquiries about the construction and installation of the sculptures, and listening to the visitors who understandably feel the need to share their emotional response to the work.
My own interest in this exhibition has not waned as I might have expected prior to the exhibition opening—given the time I have spent at close quarters with the work—but has actually increased over the weeks, as I have continued to learn about the work and share the experience with our visitors.
The visitor numbers have been phenomenal. In large part this is thanks to our visitors, who are going out after their visit and telling all they meet about this incredible exhibition; often bringing their friends and family back to the gallery and having another look themselves.
From day to day and moment to moment, we never know who is going to walk through our doors or how we will be asked to serve: we're thankful for the continued patience and understanding of our visitors and hope they will come back in future months when we expect to have a little more time for each individual. It's encouraging to be told that the wait is surprisingly brief given the length of the queue. I suspect we Visitor Hosts won't know ourselves for a while after the Ron Mueck exhibition closes. Until we do it all again for the next big exhibition.