Of course, I haven't been director throughout the entire ten-year period, and I can't take credit for arguing for this new building, nor for planning and watching over the detail of its development. That glory belongs to my predecessors, both John Coley and, latterly and more directly, fundraiser and director-on-the-spot, Tony Preston. It was a long journey, as Preston himself noted in 2003: 'Debate waxed and waned, troughed and crested, until in 1969 there was a recommendation as a matter of urgency for a new building to replace the charming, but quite inadequate McDougall...'1
Just as the establishment of a public art gallery in Christchurch, the Robert McDougall, came relatively late in New Zealand's cultural landscape, its 'urgent' replacement was to take some thirty-four years to achieve.2 Despite not being part of this civic achievement, I recall its occasion vividly, having flown from Wellington where I lived to be part of the grand opening of Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū on a chilly but fine Saturday morning in May 2003. I'd been asked to review it, so I'd already seen through the new gallery, but I did not want to miss the weekend of events.3 It was justifiably a major celebration, with speeches by then mayor, Garry Moore and prime minister Helen Clark; red balloons were released in jubilation, 'Pokarekare Ana' was sung by Dame Malvina Major and a specially-commissioned work, 'Fanfare' by Gareth Farr, played triumphantly at the morning opening. Special lift-out sections were prepared by The Press, and kapa haka performances, string quartets, brass bands and comedy events secured this as a major community weekend. A triumph of planning, fundraising and sheer hard work had paid off.
The former Robert McDougall Art Gallery had closed its doors in June 2002, its 70th anniversary, in preparation for the change. Through this period of planned closure, Christchurch had a mere ten months to endure without its art heart – a time no doubt made easier by the anticipation of a brand new development opening shortly.
Of course, there were architectural detractors from the beginning. Shortly after the hoardings came down in 2002, local historian John Wilson offered a preliminary verdict in a dismissive but amusing term that stuck in the public's imagination – 'a warehouse in a tutu'; David McPhail's 'aircraft hangar wearing a ball gown' was less catchy.4 And the late architect Peter Beaven did not think the new art gallery sat at all well with old Christchurch, describing it as a 'great alien'.5
However, Christchurch's public flocked to see it and supporters also went to print, with Hamish Keith proffering that the building was at the very least a 'very practical warehouse in a very elegant tutu'. He expressed relief at the lack of 'interactive thingy[s]', approving this as a sign of 'curators getting back to basics and letting the art speak for itself '.6 A major cultural voyage was over and former director John Coley described the new building as being 'as far removed from its precursor in the gardens as a Ferrari is from a Model T'.7
So an early triumph and a definite 'high'. My own assessment? I said on several occasions it was a great leap of faith and an incredible cultural investment, an architectural statement which broke the rules of the Victorian Gothic and colonial surroundings; an intervention and interloper. Although unlikely to be classed among the architectural wonders of the world, this nonetheless functional building has seemed in some small way like 'our Bilbao'. A certain poignancy is attached to this view from a distance, post-earthquake and after so many demolitions, but I praised it from the beginning for not presenting as a temple of art nor for being a 'safe-looking building', but for being a precocious intervention and an upstart.8
When I reviewed the Gallery prior to returning here to take the helm, I also noted that, while the collections were quite rightly given pride of place, their display seemed 'a little too sedate and strangely static'. Identifying a sense in which the model of the cherished McDougall had been transferred to a new site, without having been rethought, I considered the challenge for this new Gallery was, 'to raise the stakes by acknowledging it is no longer the McDougall, but [rather] is poised to become the force in the New Zealand art scene that Christchurch deserves.'9
Despite great first-year visitor numbers, subsequent exhibitions lacked focus and it was perhaps unsurprising that numbers began to fall below expectations established in the business case for the new building. Nor that it was reviewed by City Council in 2005–6 in the locally infamous 'Paradigm Shift'. Probably an exercise which was needed, it was certainly poorly handled in public relations terms. As Martin van Beynen wrote in The Press, former director Tony Preston, a 'civic hero in 2003, left the art gallery in 2006 with his pride battered'.10 Other staff also left and a number of key funders and Gallery supporters were understandably unsettled and angry.
So there was important work to be done when newly appointed senior staff Blair Jackson, Neil Semple and I began in October 2006. We were excited by the potential of the Gallery and ambitious for its future. A top priority for us was to demonstrate the Gallery could bring in larger and more diverse audiences and hold their interest; a key Council target was to reduce the cost per visit. They were mutually supportive, but differently expressed goals.
We got to work, within nine months also appointing Justin Paton, our well-regarded senior curator and a great communicator about art and its tasks. As sometimes happens at a time of turnover, there was virtually no programme in place, but Giacometti: Sculptures, Prints and Drawings from the Maeght Foundation in late 2006 was wonderful. I recall speaking at a women's lunch while it was on and being asked whether we'd ever get to see Picasso here in Christchurch. Sighing inside, I wanted to shake the questioner and say, 'You have a show here now by a great artist much admired by Picasso – go while you have the chance!' (I was new and recall being more tentative in expressing myself then.)
Gallery staff worked well at this time, embracing the tasks at hand and setting about activating and enlivening the inside of the building, heralding change fairly early on with a memorable Daniel Crooks video show and immersive Darryn George installation (Pulse, 2008). We commissioned a series of temporary art installations in our foyer, from Sara Hughes's United we fall (2008) to Inez Crawford's Bouncy Marae (2008) to the Andrew Drummond kinetic sculpture in place on 4 September 2010. (I wince now at the desperation of the bright national flags which decked the balconies and the Italian cars on the forecourt for a time in early 2006.11 Where was the Gallery's confidence in art to bring in an audience?) A lively new schools and public programme was organised also.
And we started to show art outside the Gallery in an early iteration of Outer Spaces. The unfortunate 'bunker' on our forecourt became a site for murals outside, while inside a sound art programme offered those going to the car park below some often mysterious accompaniment. We were on a roll. Individual presentations may have been challenging to support, but nothing was too difficult for Christchurch Art Gallery.
A significant early high point occurred when we secured extra funding within the Council's 2009–19 long-term plan to remodel the upstairs gallery spaces and to re-present our collections. Consequently, it was a moment of huge pride for us to open the seemingly more light-filled and larger exhibition spaces of Brought to Light in 2010. A newly-conceived display of our collections, it began with a powhiri or greeting space acknowledging the first settlers in this region and was extended by local and national stories and vignettes explored through our collections. Showing some great recently-bought works, including Bill Hammond's Living large 6 (1995), purchased for us by our supportive Trust after the unfortunate failure of a hanging device while it was in our care (a definite 'low' in our recent history). The exhibition Brought to Light set up conversations between and within works of art and visitors; it raised questions as well as proposing answers; it both gave public pleasure and won us professional accolades. It was a model art exhibition, one I'm sure we aspire to parallel, if in a differing format, when we are able to show on site again.
I was also especially proud of our family-friendly space, which was developed with a series of colour-themed exhibitions: I See Red, White on White and latterly, Blue Planet, which flowed into a trail of works throughout Brought to Light that encouraged families not to simply stay in the 'play section' but to explore all the way through. These exhibitions remain models for this kind of display, never talking down to anyone, appealing to kids of all ages.
Christchurch Art Gallery has also showed a firm commitment to local and locally-trained artists such as Julia Morison, Bill Hammond and Andrew Drummond, with full-scale exhibitions and well-designed catalogues – and offering these to other centres. Our exhibition of Canterbury-trained Séraphine Pick toured to Wellington and Dunedin; The Vault: Neil Pardington went to five other venues in New Zealand.
Positive press followed us all the way and our visitor numbers were also buoyant, with 470,074 visitors in 2009–10 (up from 391,000 in 2007–8). In an internationally benchmarked survey in 2010, it was revealed that a staggering 91% of Christchurch residents defined themselves as repeat visitors. We found that visitors stayed an average of 71 minutes, with first-time visitors staying 91 minutes in all, indicating the Gallery is probably a good size. Some 74% said they would recommend us to others and I was thrilled by the fact that 28% of visitors found themselves challenged by what they saw at the Gallery (compared with 2% who came expecting this during their visit).
And we've attracted some major and extraordinary gifts during the last ten years, from artists Max Gimblett and Philip Trusttum among others. I recall well being in Melbourne at the opening of Ron Mueck at the National Gallery of Victoria when the announcement was made of the wonderful and unexpectedly sizeable bequest by Norman Barrett. Supporters such as this are of the greatest significance to the Gallery, enabling the proper continuation of collecting at a time when prices outstrip city budgets. In this context, I also consider the establishment of the Challenge Grant to have been a wonderful high point. In an agreement between Council and the Art Gallery Trust, which I think is still unique in Australasia and perhaps anywhere, individual donations for collection development are matched dollar-for-dollar up to an agreed level annually. Long may it continue!
I guess Ron Mueck was the best-known recent high point in the Gallery's history. A huge public success, this exhibition, to which we allocated the entire downstairs area, attracted 135,400 visitors, 60% from Christchurch, 33% of whom were first-time visitors. It also inserted more than $3 million into the local economy. Neatly sandwiched between the September and February earthquakes, the emotional pull of these great and small sculptures was profound and lasting – visitors really engaged with looking and with marvelling at life and death. People still mention it often.
Gallery staff were fully engaged as we triumphantly replaced this single show with three: Van der Velden: Otira; Leo Bensemann: A Fantastic Art Venture; and De-Building. Launched on 10 February 2011, with three new publications and a major gift and bequest also to celebrate, it was too early to gauge overall success, but using pre-Mueck visitor figures as a guide, we were confidently predicting a total visitor count in 2010-11 of at least 700,000 – the equivalent of more than twice the population of this city. How cruel when 22 February cut all that short.
I won't dwell too long on the more than two years of closure since our Gallery became the city's headquarters for emergency response in what was a national disaster. It was positive to have provided a safe haven at this time of recovery, but Bulletin readers are only too aware of our eagerness to reopen this key community facility and our frustration – shared by our audiences – at continuing delays, whatever the reasons and their legitimacy. The demolition of apartments next door was an explicable hold-up, but much time has passed since then. Not withstanding our own repair programme is more complex than we thought initially, we loathe the doors staying shut.
As for many in Canterbury during the last two years, this period will no doubt be seen as an all-time 'low'; a time of enforced closure destructive to the cultural well-being of our community and our ability to contribute to the daily life of a busy inner-city. However, while we remain unable to predict an opening date with confidence, we have not been rudderless as we deal with the situation on a daily basis.
Against all odds, we've become a 'Gallery without Walls', sometimes showing art on display boards outside (as with Reconstruction: Conversations on a City along Worcester Boulevard in 2012), sometimes presenting works on newly exposed walls (Kay Rosen's Here are the people and there is the steeple and Wayne Youle's I seem to have temporarily misplaced my sense of humour), sometimes supporting artists affected by the earthquakes as in the Rolling Maul series. We've enhanced and multiplied our Outer Spaces art projects around the Gallery and further afield, presenting projects on walls, in windows and on rooftops throughout the city. In short, we're creatively continuing with what we might have done within the Gallery in different ways, but also literally expanding what is possible.
The most profound local impact to date was made in 2012 with the return to New Zealand of Michael Parekowhai's 2011 Venice Biennale presentation. An intricately-carved Steinway piano was winched into our temporary space at 212 Madras Street and played beautifully during opening hours while, across the road on a readily-accessible site amongst the rubble and destruction, two bronze bulls sat or stood atop bronze pianos. Few could have envisaged the extraordinary layers of meaning this would acquire in our broader community's imagination. Would it have seemed so poignant, so redolent with meaning in our more-manicured gallery spaces? Would it have invaded the hearts, heads and lives of our citizens to the same extent? What a lesson for us all. We were particularly pleased when in April of this year, our Outer Spaces programme was recognised with the top national award for Exhibition Excellence – Art at the Museums Aotearoa Awards. It is always good to get recognition, but there's something special about receiving such an accolade from your peers.
This Bulletin has come into its own in ways we didn't then imagine, becoming freer and more like a journal without such a full gallery-specific programme to promote. And as we reverse the normal order of things in a range of ways, another superb publication is in print to accompany Christchurch Art Gallery's new Shane Cotton exhibition, currently in Campbelltown, NSW before it opens at City Gallery Wellington later this year. (And yes, we expect to show this in Christchurch at the end of its current tour.) Our staff have identified and tackled back-of-house projects, so that now 90% of our collection is available online with images copyright-cleared for Gallery use, and a great 'My Gallery' function is operating on our website (have you tried it yet?). We've enhanced our presence online by blogging daily (and more), and maintained our profile locally and further afield.
Sadly in April 2012 we needed to lay off some staff, but with a closure so much longer than we initially hoped, with our collections in lock-down and our building rendered inaccessible to visitors, we are simply unable to sustain all aspects of our operation. A strong core of committed staff remains and other key positions will be re-advertised prior to reopening.
While we cannot currently make our collections directly available, our schools and other public programmes have been delivered in classrooms and other spaces across the city and a team of volunteer guides has stayed with us. The shop has opened in new premises in the temporary central library building between Lichfield and Tuam streets; we have now established temporary off-site venues at 212 Madras Street and 209 Tuam Street, and we look forward to the repairs of CoCA next door in Gloucester Street, which we hope to lease for some months.
During our forthcoming repairs, there are adjustments we'd like to make to the building and site, opportunities to take advantage of in and around our Gallery to ensure its longer-term well-being and future. We recognise that Christchurch is awash with opportunities, not all of which are affordable, but we'll push for some while they're possible. And many thanks to our Council for supporting the go-ahead of the Gallery's repair schedule even in the face of some unknowns. I'm glad it hasn't taken thirty-four years this century to agree and act on the wellbeing and continued long life of our city's art gallery.
Our first ten years has presented a whirlwind of changes, with immediate challenges remaining. Who could have predicted even half of these on 10 May 2003? Throughout our highs and lows, however, no other city in this country has taken a new gallery to its heart as has Christchurch. I am fully aware of how a visit to any metropolitan art gallery in the world reveals a city's DNA : its memory through its collections and its imagination through the new art and experiences it encourages. Four years of closure seems too long now, but – in order to continue to attract loans and to become the Gallery we were once more – there should be no short cuts taken to ensure the building's future seismic resilience.
As we approach our 10th birthday in May, and present a range of new works in the burst of fresh images of people in an inner-city programme we're calling Populate! Christchurch Art Gallery faces the uncertainties of its future with a confidence honed by realism, but also with an unwavering belief in the important difference we have made and can continue to make. So here's to our amazing staff, volunteers and audiences – may the next ten years bring us resolution, advancement and great good fortune.
The Lines That Are Left
Of landscape itself as artefact and artifice; as the ground for the inscribing hand of culture and technology; as no clean slate.
— Joanna Paul
The residential Red Zone is mostly green. After each house is demolished, contractors sweep up what is left, cover the section with a layer of soil and plant grass seed. Almost overnight, driveway, yard, porch, garage, shed and house become a little paddock; the border of plants and trees outlining it the only remaining sign that there was once a house there.
Kamala, Astral and Charlotte, Lyttelton, March 1983
Laurence Aberhart's 1983 photograph of Lyttelton children is displayed on our Gloucester Street billboard.
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.
When we asked Tony de Lautour to produce a new work for the Bunker—the name Gallery staff give to the small, square elevator building at the front of the forecourt on Montreal Street—he proposed a paint scheme inspired by Dazzle camouflage. Associated with the geometric near-abstraction of the vorticist movement, Dazzle was developed by British and American artists during the First World War to disguise shipping. It was a monumental form of camouflage that aimed not to hide the ship but to break up its mass visually and confuse enemies about its speed and direction. In a time before radar and sonar were developed, Dazzle was designed to disorientate German U-boat commanders looking through their periscopes, and protect the merchant fleets.
Senior curator Lara Strongman spoke with Tony de Lautour in late January 2016.
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.
The hungry gap
We invited artists, academics, city makers, curators, health specialists and gallerists to comment on the challenges and opportunities for the arts in our city and what art can contribute to the future of Christchurch.
Aaron Kreisler is Head of the School of Fine Art at the University of Canterbury. He talked to Bulletin about challenges and opportunities for the arts in our city and what art can contribute to the future of Christchurch.
Sparks that fly upwards
Curator Felicity Milburn remembers five years and 101 installations in a gallery without walls.
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.
Dancing on shifting ground
Sophie McKinnon explores art, resilience, change and urban regeneration in China.
In the winter of 2006 I found myself traipsing around the 798 art district in Beijing, in search of someone to talk to about factories morphing into gallery spaces. I was fascinated by the story of a defunct industrial district turned rapidly expanding contemporary art zone. 798 had been the unofficial site of regeneration for Beijing’s art community since 2001. This community had spent over two deca+des plagued by isolation and displacement but seemed finally to be finding a home.
Peter Stichbury's NDE
Anna Worthington chooses her favourite work from the Gallery collection.
Regional revitalization with art
Rei Maeda, coordinator of the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale, writes on art’s contribution to the regeneration of a remote rural area of Japan.
Martin Trusttum, project manager for Ōtākaro Art by the River, and founder of temporary gallery space ArtBox, writes on the role of art in Christchurch.
Everything is Going to be Alright
Martin Creed's completely unequivocal, but also pretty darn ambiguous, work for Christchurch.
Since late 2006 when I started as director of Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū, I’ve written several times about our art collections in Bulletin forewords. Given their centrality to our daily work and our reason for being, this is unsurprising. So it’s good news that we’re focusing on collections in this edition of our quarterly journal.
Michael Parekowhai: Chapman's Homer at PlaceMakers Riccarton
Christchurch's favourite bull can now be found at PlaceMakers Riccarton. That may sound a bit unusual, but these are strange times.
David Cook: Meet Me in the Square
Cathedral Square, Centennial Pool, Lancaster Park, schoolboys, punks, nuns – a photographic journey through 1980s Christchurch.
Last chance to view the Holloway Press exhibition at Central Library Peterborough this week so if you are in the neighbourhood and like beautifully printed, designed and hand-crafted books then make sure you head along.
Paul Johns: South Pacific Sanctuary / Peraki / Banks Peninsula
The consideration of Japanese whale-hunting activity and ensuing protest in nearby southern waters has led to a reflection on our local whaling past, highlighting changing and divergent attitudes to animal life.
Stakes in the ground
Last, Loneliest, Loveliest is New Zealand's first official presence at the International Architecture Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia, and takes its alliterative title from Rudyard Kipling's poem, 'The Song of the Cities', which gives four lines each to various cities from the British Empire, including Auckland:
Last, loneliest, loveliest, exquisite, apart–
On us, on us the unswerving season smiles,
Who wonder 'mid our fern why men depart
To seek the Happy Isles!
Proceed and Be Bold: The Pear Tree Press
An exhibition of beautifully crafted, designed and hand-printed books from New Zealand's most renowned private press, The Pear Tree Press.
A technology that allows a building to effectively 'float' on its foundations during an earthquake is about to be applied to the Gallery.
Max Hailstone: Book and Typographic Designer
A selection of typographic designs, including books, posters and ephemera, by renowned Christchurch graphic designer Max Hailstone (1942–1997).
Curator Ken Hall writes about his experience of working with artists Chris Heaphy and Sara Hughes, as part of a small team with other city council staff and Ngāi Tahu arts advisors, on the Transitional Cathedral Square artist project.
Edwards+Johann: Rebels, Knights and Other Tomorrows
Combining vividly imagined photographs with sculptural elements, Christchurch-based collaborative duo Edwards+Johann present an enigmatic and playful installation laced with tension and possibility.
Shane Cotton: Baseland
Christchurch audiences at last have the opportunity to experience the complexity and ambition of Cotton's latest work in this two-venue exhibition by one of the biggest names in New Zealand art.
Daniel Crooks: Seek Stillness in Movement
Hectic city scenes transformed into contemplative meditations of extraordinary beauty.
The idea of peppering the vestigial city centre with portraits from the collection became part of the Gallery's tenth birthday POPULATE! programme, intended to remind all of us that the collection is, indeed, still here and in good shape.
The latest issue of Photoforum's MoMento journal (issue 14, January 2014) focuses on the work of three photographers with strong ties to Christchurch and their haunting images of this battered city post February 22, 2011.
Burster Flipper Wobbler Dripper Spinner Stacker Shaker Maker
A family-focused exhibition powered by the excitement of seeing ordinary things transformed in unexpected ways.
It's where we live: the encrusted surface of a molten planet, rotating on its own axis, circling round the star that gives our daylight. Geographically, it's a mapped-out city at the edge of a plain, bordered by sea and rising, broken geological features. Zooming in further, it's a neighbourhood, a street, a shelter – all things existing at first as outlines, drawings, plans. And it's a body: portable abode of mind, spirit, psyche (however we choose to view these things); the breathing physical location of unique identity and passage.
Street urchins, blue moons and rare visions
Even in a city where surreal scenes have become somewhat routine, the sight of the Isaac Theatre Royal's eight-tonne dome, suspended like a great alien craft, had the power to turn heads and drop jaws. Preserved inside a strange white shroud while the theatre was slowly deconstructed around it was a jewel of Christchurch's decorative arts heritage – a 105 year-old Italianate plaster ceiling featuring a circular painted reverie on the theme of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. The dome, along with the rest of the theatre, is currently being restored as part of an ambitious rebuild that is expected to be completed in 2015 at a cost of over $30 million.
The fault is ours: Joseph Becker on Lebbeus Woods
There was a packed auditorium at CPIT in Christchurch this August when visiting San Francisco Museum of Modern Art curator Joseph Becker delivered a lecture on architect Lebbeus Woods. And it wasn't hard to guess why. In addition to many other achievements, Woods is renowned for his highly speculative project, Inhabiting the Quake. Senior curator Justin Paton spoke to Becker about Lebbeus Woods, and what Christchurch might learn from him.
Six artists use line to investigate space and structure in unexpected ways.
New Zealand Illustrated: Pictorial Books from the Victorian Age
A selection of lavishly illustrated books from the Victorian era relating to New Zealand landscape, Māori culture, colonial enterprise and our unique flora, fauna and birdlife.
The endless newscape: Barry Cleavin’s inkjet prints
Barry Cleavin is often, rightfully, referred to as a 'master printer' – a maestro of intaglio printing techniques including the complex tonal subtleties of aquatint, soft- and hard-ground etching and the creation of 'linear tension'. Mastering these complex techniques to achieve a command over the etching processes has required patience and fortitude over a career spanning some forty-seven years.
Yvonne Todd: The Wall of Man
A succinct ad placed in the classifieds of the North Shore Times in March 2009 attracted some forty applicants. Respondents were shown a photographic portrait of an unnamed executive, and directed towards ervon.com – artist Yvonne Todd's website – to decide whether or not they wanted to be photographed. Some still did. The unfolding story might not have been exactly what they'd expected, but all who agreed understood it would be something different. Next came the eliminations: sixteen men were chosen to be photographed; twelve made it to the final cut. The resulting images were printed at varying sizes and titled: International Sales Director, Retired Urologist, Family Doctor, Senior Executive, Hospital Director, Company Founder, Sales Executive, Chief Financial Officer, Image Consultant, Independent Manufacturing Director, Publisher, Agrichemical Spokesman. This is The Wall of Man.
Bodytok Quintet: The Human Instrument Archive
An interactive installation that reveals the astonishing sounds people can make using their bodies – from lip plopping to bone clicking.
Glen Hayward: I don't want you to worry about me, I have met some Beautiful People
Real or illusory? Virtual or physical? Sculptor Glen Hayward teases out these questions in this mind-bending new sculpture, a hand-carved and painted recreation of the famous office cubicle from The Matrix.
Fernbank Studio: away past elsewhere
A selection of hand-printed books from Wellington's Fernbank Studio.
Repair work has started on Christchurch Art Gallery, with the re-levelling tender that will relieve stress in the building's foundations having been awarded.
Boyd Webb: Sleep/Sheep
Boyd Webb contributes a new work to the Gallery's Sterescope programme.
With the removal of the final cordon around the red zone in the central city last weekend, I came in with my family to have a look around the newly reopened areas of the CBD. We stopped to watch the parade of soldiers who were being thanked by the Prime Minister, the Mayor of Christchurch and Kaiwhakahaere of Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu for their work in controlling the central city red zone and with community welfare in the immediate aftermath of the February earthquake.
Tony Oursler: Head Knocking
Credited with freeing video art from the 'tyranny of the monitor', Tony Oursler is regarded as one of the world's most influential artists in that medium.
Tony Oursler: Fist
Credited with freeing video art from the 'tyranny of the monitor', Tony Oursler is regarded as one of the world's most influential artists in that medium.
Faces from the Collection
Treasured portraits populate empty spaces in our changing city.
Fall tension tension wonder bright burn want
Curator Felicity Milburn on Tony Oursler and the grotesque.
Gregor Kregar: Reflective Lullaby
Justin Paton: As everyone who has seen your works at Christchurch Airport will know, you often make big sculptures with a geometric quality. Gnomes, however large, aren't the first things viewers might expect you to be interested in. What's the appeal of these figures for you?
Gregor Kregar: I'm interested reinterpreting mundane objects, shapes, situations or materials. In my large geometric works I do this by creating complex structures out of basic shapes—triangles, squares, pentagons and hexagons. And with the gnomes I am interested in how something that is usually made out of plastic or concrete and is associated with a low, kitsch aesthetic can be transformed into an arresting monumental sculpture.
It’s our party and we’ll cry if we want to
On 10 May 2013, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū turns ten. Which is fantastic. But it's probably fair to say that there's a bittersweet quality to the celebrations around this particular anniversary, as it also marks two years and eleven weeks of closure for the Gallery, and catches us staring down the barrel of another two years without our home.
It's frustrating. And then some.
However, we're not going to let these little, ahem, inconveniences get in the way of our party. Populate! is our birthday programme, and it's our attempt to bring some unexpected faces and figures back to the depleted central city. Bulletin spoke to the Gallery's senior curator Justin Paton about what he really wants for the tenth birthday, what he finds funny, and what he really doesn't.
Roger Boyce: Painter Speaks
Grinning ventriloquist dummies are the stars of the show in Roger Boyce's Painter Speaks.
Tony Oursler: Bright Burn Want
The fantastically strange, inescapably human works of renowned video artist Tony Oursler.
Jess Johnson: Wurm Whorl Narthex
New Zealand-born, Melbourne-based artist Jess Johnson makes intricate drawings and painted environments that evoke other worlds and parallel realities.
Gregor Kregar: Reflective Lullaby
Gnomes are figures in historic folklore as well as garden ornaments. But Gregor Kregar has brought gnomes like you've never seen to 'the garden city' – staunch, shiny and more than three metres tall.
Camp Blood: Hand-Painted Film Posters
Drawn from the collection of Christchurch painter Roger Boyce, these promotional posters from Ghana, Africa, are movie marketing like you've never seen: lurid, vivid and emphatically hand-made.
Francis Upritchard: Believer
A New Age awakening? Or just a 1960s pipe dream? Francis Upritchard's Believer is a recent addition to her expanding gallery of hippies, dreamers and gurus.
Sian Torrington: How you have held things
Wellington-based artist Sian Torrington's site-specific sculptural installation combined ideas, images and materials that related to life in post-quake Christchurch
Christchurch Art Gallery is excited to be working with Wellington-based artist Sian Torrington on a site-specific sculptural installation that will combine ideas, images and materials that relate to living in Christchurch now.
See below for a message from Sian to find out how you can get involved.
The Gallery's latest exhibition in the Outer Spaces programme, Showhome, has opened in Christchurch, featuring the disconcertingly 'perfect' works of recent University of Canterbury graduate Emily Hartley-Skudder.
Steve Carr: Majo
Steve Carr's strangely mesmerising sound and video projection is shown after dark in an upstairs window of the old house opposite the Gallery on Worcester Boulevard.
Seung Yul Oh: Huggong
Christchurch Art Gallery has a new offsite space, and Seung Yul Oh has filled it to bursting with his comically vast balloon sculptures.
Reuben Paterson: Te Pūtahitangi ō Rehua
Op-art patterns, expanses of glitter and Māori stories of water. They're all set in motion in this dazzling video installation by New Zealand artist Reuben Paterson.
Christchurch Art Gallery celebrates its tenth birthday with a burst of art in the city – including whopping new murals, night-time projections and sculptures where you least expect them.
Toshi Endo: Wolf-Cub
The kaleidoscopic moving imagery of Christchurch artist Toshi Endo has been stripped of colour and brought to a standstill in Wolf-Cub, his contribution to Christchurch Art Gallery's Stereoscope programme.
A Caxton Miscellany: The Caxton Press 1933–58
Established in Christchurch in 1933 the Caxton Press became one of the most progressive publishers of contemporary New Zealand writing and dynamic modern typographical design.
English artist Sarah Lucas was installing her show in Two Rooms, Auckland, when the 22 February earthquake struck.
Brenda Nightingale: Christchurch Hills 2010–2012
Local artist Brenda Nightingale's beautifully produced, hand-stitched publication features a selection of recent watercolours based on one of Christchurch's defining features, the Port Hills
Stereoscope #2: Robert Hood
Two Year of the Cyclops works by Christchurch artist Rob Hood kick off the second itteration of Stereoscope at 26E Lichfield Street.
Stereoscope: Robin Neate
Christchurch artist Robin Neate's contribution to the Gallery's Stereoscope programme is drawn from his recent series of energised abstract paintings.
Expect the rug to be pulled out from under your feet with the last exhibition in the Rolling Maul series.
De Lautour / Greig / Hammond
An exciting opportunity to see new work by leading Canterbury artists Tony de Lautour, Jason Greig and Bill Hammond
A miscellany of observable illustrations
Romantic notions of gothic leanings, the legacy of Tony Fomison, devotion to rock sub-genres and an eye to the past are familiar and sound reasons to group Tony de Lautour, Jason Greig and Bill Hammond together in one exhibition, but De Lautour / Greig / Hammond is to feature new and recent work. Could all this change? What nuances will be developed or abandoned? Will rich veins be further mined? We can only speculate and accept that even the artists concerned can't answer these questions. For the artist, every work is a new endeavour, a new beginning. What may appear to the public, the critic or the art historian as a smooth, seamless flow of images is for them an unpredictable process where the only boundaries are those that they choose to invent.
Back on 20 September 2011, when our public programmes team began setting up the Hagley Park Geo Dome for a talk with Shane Cotton, they put out about sixty chairs and would have been glad to fill them. After all, it was a cold night in Christchurch, the roads were rough, the Geo Dome was off the beaten track and the quake had long since broken the rhythm of the Gallery's old Wednesday night programme of public talks.
Lunchtime on a shining summer's day and you head for the ruin of Christchurch Cathedral. If you get there by twelve you can usually nab one of the bench seats along the back wall, where sun buckets down through the long-gone roof and warms the stonework behind you.
James Oram: but it’s worth it
Manipulating found footage of the infamous 'Black Friday' sales held by American chain stores, James Oram isolates and magnifies smaller physical gestures amidst the frenzied crush.
Stereoscope: Kristin Hollis
Drawings of two bottles - one of gin, one of water – grace the Montreal Street side of the Christchurch Art Gallery bunker in the latest offering in the Stereoscope series.
Miranda Parkes / Tjalling de Vries: Keep left, keep right
Sharing an interest in expanding the idea of abstract painting beyond its traditional borders, Miranda Parkes and Tjalling de Vries explore the creative possibilities of commercial billboards in an exhibition that combines painting and projection to obstruct and intrigue in equal measure.
The popularity of Reconstruction: Conversations on a City has led to the exhibition being extended until 14 October, and the development of a publication.
André Hemer: <del>CASS</del>
André Hemer's many-dimensioned installation for the Rolling Maul series combines painting with a range of secondary outputs to play with ideas of distance and deletion – with particular reference to a well known work from the Gallery's collection.
Helen Calder: Orange Up
Helen Calder's new work, Orange Up, provides a refreshingly bold statement on the Gallery bunker using one of the powerhouses in the range of colours: orange.
Justene Williams: She Came Over Singing Like a Drainpipe Shaking Spoon Infused Mixers
Australian artist Justene Williams uses performance and ephemeral materials to produce a sensory overload of shapes, patterns and colours in the vibrantly theatrical video work.
Ruth Watson: from white darkness
Offering a poetic commentary on the intriguing resemblances between art and science, Ruth Watson's container-based video installation combines historical footage, text and her own Antarctic imagery.
Tjalling is Innocent
An ambitious paste-up work by local artist Tjalling de Vries on CoCa's back wall (viewable from Worcester Boulevard), Tjalling is Innocent is an Outer Spaces project presented in association with CoCA.
Tony de Lautour: Unreal Estate
Painted on found pages from real estate publications, Unreal Estate, is an artist's book published by local artist Tony de Lautour and Christchurch Art Gallery.
Out of Place
Katharina Jaeger, Chris Pole, Tim J. Veling and Charlotte Watson start with structure and consider what is possible when the normal rules no longer apply.
If you've not been down to the Central Library Peterborough yet now's a good time to do it.
We're pretty pleased with what we're achieving with our Outer Spaces programme, but it's always good to see what else is out there. And I do mean 'out there'...
We recently received this generous gift - from one quakeprone country to another
A Dark and Empty Interior
In B.167 senior curator Justin Paton documented his walk around the perimeter of Christchurch's red zone, and we featured the empty Rolleston plinth outside Canterbury Museum at the end of Worcester Boulevard. In this edition, director Jenny Harper interviews English sculptor Antony Gormley, who successfully animated another vacant central-city plinth—the so-called Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, London. Gormley filled the plinth with 2,400 people, who occupied it for one hour each, night and day, for 100 days. Here, Jenny asks him about his practice, the value of the figurative tradition and whether he has any advice for Christchurch.
Laying out Foundations
Looking broadly at the topic of local architectural heritage, Reconstruction: conversations on a city had been scheduled to open at the Gallery but will now instead show on outdoor exhibition panels along Worcester Boulevard from 23 June. Supplementing works from the collection with digital images from other collections, curator Ken Hall brings together an arresting art historical tour of the city and its environs.
Cities of Remembrance
Nothing was more fascinating than ruins to me when I was growing up in one of the newest parts of the New World—new, anyway, to extensive buildings and their various forms of lingering collapse and remnant. The native people of California had mostly built ephemeral structures that were readily and regularly replaced and left few traces. Anything old, anything that promised to reach into the past, was magical for me; ruins doubly so for the usual aura of romance and loss that, like death, is most alluring to the young who have not seen much of it yet.
Phantom City: Doc Ross’s Christchurch 1998–2011
Back projected large onto a shop window in Colombo Street, Sydenham, Doc Ross's photographs create a haunting record of this city before its dramatic seismic demise.
Stereoscope #1: Robert Hood
Two Year of the Cyclops works by Christchurch artist Rob Hood kick off Stereoscope, a new Outer Spaces series housed within two black frames positioned on the street-side of the Gallery's Montreal Street bunker.
Here are the people and there is the steeple
A big bright mural inspired by the challenges of rebuilding a city. Kay Rosen turns the word 'people' into the foundation for an unexpected 'steeple'.
Michael Parekowhai: On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer
Michael Parekowhai's spectacular Venice Biennale installation returns home for its first post-Biennale showing in New Zealand.
Hannah and Aaron Beehre: Waters Above Waters Below
Hannah and Aaron Beehre's immersive new installation connects us with the transformative moments beneath the surface of the everyday.
The possibilities for a city in transition will be considered in Re:actions for the city – a new series of public events that we are launching.
Georgie Hill and Zina Swanson: Breathing space
Strength, fragility and connection are at the heart of the second Rolling Maul exhibition, which features works by Georgie Hill and Zina Swanson.
Sam Harrison: Render
Presenting new art from Christchurch, our Rolling Maul project series begins with a remarkable exhibition of sculptures by Sam Harrison.
A lot of water, and Lord only knows what else, has flowed under the bridge since Justin Paton and I first hatched our plans for a fast-paced, post-quake showing of new work by local artists. Rolling Maul, so far, has been quite the antithesis of 'fast-paced', and despite our best efforts, it is yet to roll anywhere – rather it has been beset by the same delays, cancellations and frustrations as all of the Gallery's other in-house plans.
Our original concept, as outlined in B.165, was based around the use of one of Christchurch Art Gallery's ground-floor exhibition spaces, which we hoped to reoccupy as soon as they were no longer required as part of the City Council/CERA earthquake response. But as we are now only too aware, we won't be showing anything there any time soon.
Elliot Collins: For those who stay behind
Keep an eye out for the Gallery's latest Outer Spaces project around town over the next couple of weeks as poster reproductions of three paintings by Auckland artist Elliot Collins appear pasted to bollards and walls throughout the city.
Well before the earthquakes, Christchurch had a reputation as a tough town for public art. The city's public spaces are haunted by the ghosts of several major sculptures that never made it to completion. And several local sculptors still carry some psychological scar tissue from their forays into the public realm.
Ronnie van Hout: The creation of the world
A haunting video projection by Ronnie van Hout in the window of the old house opposite the Gallery on Worcester Boulevard.
Julia Morison: Meet me on the other side
Julia Morison's evocative post-quake sculptures and 'liqueurfaction' paintings return to Christchurch for a special showing in a gallery space overlooking the inner-city 'red zone'.
I seem to have temporarily misplaced my sense of humour
Stretching across a vast wall at the gateway to Sydenham, Wayne Youle's new public artwork is a shadowboard, where tools for rebuilding hang alongside many familiar but precious objects.
Here and Gone
In the last issue of Bulletin, senior curator Justin Paton wrote about the way the Christchurch earthquakes 'gazumped' the exhibitions on display at the Gallery – overshadowing them and shifting their meanings. In this issue, with the Gallery still closed to the public, he considers the place of art in the wider post-quake city – and discovers a monument in an unlikely place.
Sydenham-based photographer Doc Ross and his camera have been investigating the Christchurch urban environment for the past 14 years.
Matt Akehurst: You Are Here
Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, Damien Hirst, Robert Smithson, Michelangelo... Yes, all the big names have just arrived on the Christchurch Art Gallery forecourt.
Julia Morison: Aibohphobia
Julia Morison has turned the Gallery's squat grey bunker into a dizzying vision in dayglo green.
André Hemer: Things to do with paint that won't dry
New Zealand artist André Hemer's colourful Worcester Boulevard intervention Things to do with paint that won't dry, appears to flow and spill down the side of the building.
Jae Hoon Lee: Annapurna
An immense and oddly surreal landscape glowing out from the Springboard over Worcester Boulevard is the latest addition to the Outer Spaces programme.
Scott Flanagan: Do You Remember Me Like I Do?
Including a wishing well and mirror painstakingly woven from reflective black VHS tape, Scott Flanagan's latest installation considers the surprisingly elusive nature of civic memory.
Reconstruction: Conversations on a City
In acknowledging architectural heritage loss in this city's present and past, this visually rich outdoor exhibition unfolds the ways in which dreams and values have been given form in our built environment.
In preparation for the next issue of Bulletin, Gallery photographer John and I have been out photographing some of the local artists who will be taking part in Rolling Maul when we reopen.