Ralph Hotere: Key works from the collection

By Peter Vangioni
Black Painting

Ralph Hotere Black Painting 1969

Black Painting was the first painting by Hotere to enter the collection. It was acquired from the 1969 Group Show and signaled a new commitment at the Robert McDougall Art Gallery to the acquisition of work by contemporary New Zealand artists.

Black Painting

Ralph Hotere Black Painting 1969

This work was exhibited alongside the example above at the 1969 Group Show and was bequeathed to the gallery by Bill Sutton – a good friend of Hotere's.

Malady Panels

Ralph Hotere Malady Panels 1971

This work is mighty – seven canvases stretching out over seven and half metres – and when it is on display in the collection gallery it never fails to make me pause a little as I walk past it. One of former director Rodney Wilson's finest acquisitions it is an absolute gem in the Gallery's collection.

Dawn/Water Poem

Ralph Hotere Dawn/Water Poem 1986

When Neil Roberts and John Coley (curator and director of the Gallery at the time this work was acquired) saw this painting in Hotere's exhibition at Christchurch's Brooke Gifford Gallery, they both knew instantly that it had to be acquired by the Gallery – one of those moments when there was no hesitance about committing precious acquisitions funds for a major purchase, and they even managed to tap the QE II Arts Council for some cash to assist with the purchase. It is a great example of Hotere's work on unstretched canvas which for me conjures up the intense feelings of anger I felt whenever the French tested a nuclear bomb on Mururoa, screwing up the environment on our doorstep rather than their own – I was truly relieved when they stopped testing.

Black Union Jack

Ralph Hotere Black Union Jack 1984

Hotere took up an artist's residence at Ilam in 1984, collaborating with several artists from the printmaking department including Denise Copland, Barry Cleavin, Sue Cooke and most importantly Marian Maguire. He took to many of his etching plates with an angle grinder and the same technique was also used for a number of stainless steel works (see 1984 No. 9 above) which he produced in the sculpture department.

La Cruz

Ralph Hotere La Cruz 1992

The Gallery holds many examples of Hotere's lithographs, which highlight the incredibly productive twenty-five year plus collaboration existing between the artist and Marian Maguire – a master printmaker whose ability to print exquisite lithographs both for herself and others remains unequaled in New Zealand.

Pathway to the Sea - Aramoana

Ralph Hotere, Bill Culbert Pathway to the Sea - Aramoana 1991

For me. a trip to Dunedin is never complete without a visit to my great aunt, who is now in her mid 90s and has lived in Port Chalmers since 1936. Her house overlooks the Otago Harbour and Taiaroa Head, near Hotere's old studio on Flagstaff. The view from the top of Flagstaff is stunning, especially with a brisk southerly blowing. You can visit the sculpture garden at the top of Flagstaff, which has numerous sculptures that were once installed in Ralph's studio garden when it sat across the road.
One aspect of Hotere's work which is not present in the Gallery's collection is a sculptural collaboration with Bill Culbert... Perhaps one day this can be rectified. One day...