A brightly lit public statement on the outside of our Gallery optimistically indicates how much closer we are now to reopening. This edition’s cover features Martin’s Creed’s new neon, Work No. 2314, 2015. Commissioned by the Gallery’s Foundation, it became a gift to all of us in Christchurch from the remarkable Neil Graham (Grumps to his many friends) who died a few days after it was turned on at our Foundation’s gala dinner on 26 September. This new work of art clearly proclaims that ‘everything is going to be alright,’ and to my mind it shall be when Te Puna o Waiwhetū reopens!
Symbolic of this moment, the neon will shine forth for years to come and become a vehicle for all the meanings we bring to it. For, as with all art, our receptivity and the quality of time and energy we give to looking are crucial to our understanding. I hope this work becomes and remains a simple message of reassurance to most of us, most of the time. Grumps was pleased when he heard that at 4.23am, after it was turned on, someone posted on Facebook that they could see the work from their hospital bed and they were thankful for its message.
As our Gallery’s reopening approaches, spaces are being painted and cleaned, their climate control tested, so we can populate them with the art which has been in storage for much too long. Before we are flung into the joy of being ourselves once more, this is an appropriate time to reflect on the last five years.
In our current edition of Bulletin we remember the role our building played in symbolising Christchurch, protecting us and our art collections and—in a sense also—our future. After the 2010-11 earthquakes, any vestiges of misgiving some had about the Gallery’s architecture were forgotten. This community was in awe of the engineering triumph the Gallery, glass façade intact, proved to be. We recall the time when our Gallery was taken over as civic and national emergency headquarters. It was commandeered after 4 September 2010 for ten days—it seemed a lifetime at the time—and then, following 22 February 2011, for an extended seven months. Thanks to Lara Strongman for collecting and collating impressions and memories from this time.
Recalling our closure from her curatorial perspective, Felicity Milburn has written an overview of Outer Spaces, our series of exhibitions while the Gallery was closed. We learned a lot—about ourselves and our role as Christchurch’s publicly-funded art museum—through exhibiting in largely uncharted waters beyond the Gallery’s walls. We engaged in large and smaller exhibitions and publications, inside and out, conventional and less so, some 100 projects altogether.
While we’ve been closed we tackled many back-of-house tasks, developed new forms and standards and generally gained new skills. Getty thesaurus terms and geographical coordinates showing places related to each piece, were applied to works in the collection. Our curatorial staff and our librarian have provided fortnightly columns on a work from our collection to The Press, some better known than others. This well-received initiative reminded local people of both our presence and that of our loved collections. In some cases also, it served as a way of heralding newly-acquired works in advance of our reopening.
While it has been an amazing challenge to maintain the Gallery’s public profile and keep an admittedly-reduced staff active and engaged, we are grateful for the continuation of city funding during this time. Desperate as we’ve been to reopen throughout, we have been enabled to continue to show how good art really matters by making a consistent contribution to the raft of transitional activities which has characterised Christchurch during the last four and a half years. Oh, for this time to be over, however!
We’ve learned over the last few years just how much more complex it is to predict the end-date of a repair project than a new build. Various realities emerged from the woodwork, so to speak, and set us back; and it’s frustratingly impossible to make improvements, even sensible and obvious ones, during an insurance-related repair such as this.
But we are hugely pleased that back in 2012, Council agreed to retrofit base isolation. This will be a major help to us as we reassure potential lenders that—despite being located within an earthquake zone, like much of the Pacific Rim—the Gallery is a safe place for loans and touring exhibitions, such as the hugely successful Ron Mueck in 2010-11. Although it has taken time, the insertion of base isolation also means that we’ll never have to close this key cultural facility for so long again. Interestingly, as things have turned out, this single intervention also became the most cost-effective way of repairing our building. Initially approved as a betterment, it’s turned out to be the best single way of bringing the Gallery up to the new building standard.
Looking to the future it’s great to announce that two new publications will be available when we reopen, both nurtured into fruition by editor, Sarah Pepperle, and designed by Aaron Beehre. 101 Works of Art marks our reopening in a special way; and a second book demonstrates the careful thinking behind our collections-based opening installations.
Our Foundation’s TOGETHER endowment scheme has brought into our circle a wonderful range of supporters, new and more long-standing. Although we’re not yet fully subscribed, progress over the year since it was launched has been marvellous. We’re around sixty percent of the way to our goal of an endowment to support the Foundation’s key raison d’être of working with us to ensure future active collecting.
The neon will shine forth for years to come and become a vehicle for all the meanings we bring to it.
Alongside the committed individual supporters noted in this Bulletin, let me also introduce to our readers four great energised firms. We’re delighted to welcome Chapman Tripp, EY, Fulton Hogan and NZI as Gallery strategic partners for the next three years. Some are known to us as supporters of past exhibitions, for example, EY generously supported Bill Hammond’s Jingle Jangle Morning in 2007. NZI have chosen to back art and Christchurch Art Gallery as a symbol of regeneration. Fulton Hogan have been on site since August 2014 and we think they’re an obvious partner for us (we joke about how we love them, but how much we need them gone!). And Chapman Tripp are returning to the central city and we’re delighted to have their support as well. You’ll see these companies advertising in Bulletin over the next while—it’s part of the deal. For being publicly-funded is not the same as being fully-funded.
We’re also pleased to welcome new product partners, Singapore Airlines, the Gallery’s exclusive airline supporter; Ryman Health Care; Three Boys Brewery and Samsung. We’ll continue to thank some great individuals and companies for tangible evidence of their commitment to art and culture in our city. Let me also thank all who have commented in this edition of Bulletin on the role of arts and culture in the city.
It’s been clear during recent commentary about the funding of public art in this city that some (perhaps a vocal few) think art is far from a necessity at this time in our recovery. Unsurprisingly, I disagree. While it will no doubt gnaw away in my mind in the interim, I shall assemble my thoughts into an argument and write on this when life settles a little more. This stage of transition in Christchurch has been immensely draining on all sorts of levels, personal and professional. But while I have no doubt we’ll look back and assess things differently with more reflection, few have been as clear and simple as Grumps. In hospital, a week before he died, he stated with conviction: ‘The arts and the people who work in them have made a real difference to Christchurch after the quakes; they’ve helped the psyche of this city while it recovers.’
When you receive this edition, we’ll be within weeks of reopening. It’s the reopening we’ve dreamed of but, in many respects, it won’t be a dream reopening. It seems likely to be a work in progress, with our return to being fully operational staged following the completion of base isolation on 4 November. This is Christchurch. We are and have to be pragmatic as well as hopeful—to continuously remind ourselves that everything will be all right.
While our target is to have all the gallery spaces re-hung before Christmas, time is already tight. We’ll open on the weekend of 19-20 December 2015 with as much as we can, but with a sequence of other developments still to come: the shop, the café, the car park, the remaking of our workshop (to be suspended under the building) while the final staff and library move back is not likely until February 2016.
Nonetheless, we’re positively planning a wonderful summer of art for all ages with a major weekend of celebrations over Waitangi weekend in early February 2016. Please join us! Come often to enjoy what we are able to share; and show how much you appreciate our return!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Voluntary work is work done of one's own free will, unpaid, for the common good.
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!
A technology that allows a building to effectively 'float' on its foundations during an earthquake is about to be applied to the Gallery.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Christchurch Art Gallery is ten: highs and lows
In recognition of the anniversary of the move of Christchurch's public art gallery from its former existence as the Robert McDougall in the Botanic Gardens to its new more central city location (now eerily empty), I've been asked by Bulletin's editor to recall some highs and lows of the last ten years. So here goes — and stay with me during this reflection, which takes the place of my usual foreword.
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.
English artist Sarah Lucas was installing her show in Two Rooms, Auckland, when the 22 February earthquake struck.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.