Blair Jackson has been appointed the new director of Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū.
He will take over from Jenny Harper, who is stepping down after 11 years.
Blair, who was previously the Gallery’s deputy director and curatorial, collections and programmes manager, says his “focus will be on expanding and broadening our audiences and exploring new ways of engaging visitors with our exhibitions programme”.
“Galleries are no longer just showcases that we visit to see the creativity of others,” he says.
“They need to be places that encourage the experiential; a place for us to interact with, take risks and develop our own creativity. The ability to think creatively is, now more than ever, one of the most important human resources.
“I am extremely lucky to have a very talented team. I know them well and love working with them. The gallery is also fortunate to have a fantastic group of supporters and commercial partners.
“It is so good having the Gallery open again after being closed for five years, but we’ve only just begun. There’s so much more that we want to do.”
A University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts graduate, Blair describes himself as “an artist in a previous life”.
“A fine arts degree offers more options than being an artist,” he says. “For me, gallery life took over.”
Blair initially worked as a gallery assistant at the Canterbury Society of Arts – now known as CoCA – before being appointed registrar at the Manawatu Art Gallery.
Prior to moving to Christchurch, he was exhibitions manager at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery and Otago Settlers Museum.
An alumni of the prestigious United States-based Getty Leadership Institute for museum leaders, Blair took up his deputy director role in 2006, a week after Jenny took the Gallery reins.
“I want us to continue to build great collections, work with innovative artists and build new audiences through outstanding exhibitions and audience-focused programmes,” he says.
The selection panel has described Blair as the “standout” in an impressive list of international and domestic candidates for the role.
Jenny is “delighted” with the appointment. “We are fortunate to have a leader of Blair’s calibre who is well equipped to capitalise on the multiple opportunities for growth and development in our regenerating city,” she says.
“Blair also brings fresh perceptions and practices to drive greater gallery engagement.”
Blair will move into the role on 3 April.
The London Club
In September 2017, Gallery director Jenny Harper, curator Felicity Milburn and Jo Blair, of the Gallery Foundation’s contracted development services, Brown Bread, went to London, taking a group of supporters who received a very special tour of the city’s art highlights. While there, they further developed the Foundation’s new London Club. Recently they sat down together in Jenny’s office…
London's hottest chefs are coming to town – and you're invited to dinner!
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.
Peter Stichbury's NDE
Anna Worthington chooses her favourite work from the Gallery collection.
On Saturday a gala dinner for Christchurch Art Gallery TOGETHER Foundation marked the illumination of Martin Creed's Work No. 2314, the latest artwork funded by the Foundation. Multi-coloured neon letters, over a metre tall, spell out EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE ALRIGHT on the Gallery's south wall.
On Saturday night artist Bill Culbert and chefs Margot and Fergus Henderson helped raise the bar for another extraordinary fundraiser from the Gallery and its Foundation
When 'Chapman’s Homer' was exhibited at the edge of the devastated central city in 2012, it was positioned between ruin and rebuild just outside the cordon in an empty lot on Madras Street. Our bull stood beside his seated brother while a red carved Steinway piano was played upstairs in an adjacent building. Over thirty days, Parekowhai’s work caught the public imagination as a symbol of the resilience of local people. At once strong and refined, a brutal force of nature and a dynamic work of culture, Chapman’s Homer resonated with local audiences. Subsequently, a public fundraising campaign kept the bull in Christchurch.
Chapman’s Homer was first exhibited in Venice, where Parekowhai represented New Zealand at the 2011 Venice Biennale. It travelled to Christchurch after being shown at the Musée de quai Branly in Paris. Over the past year, we’ve shown it at a number of sites around the city as part of the Gallery's Outer Spaces programme, including Worcester Boulevard, Placemakers Riccarton, New Regent Street, and most recently at Christchurch International Airport. And now the bull is back – standing strong in its permanent home at Te Puna o Waiwhetū Christchurch Art Gallery, welcoming visitors to our reopening exhibitions.