Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Get ready to feast your eyes...

When the Gallery opens on 3 September (67 days away!), visitors will be able to experience a huge selection of art from our collection of over 15,000 artworks in a series of opening exhibitions.

But we can now announce another treat for art lovers - and for the people of Auckland. On opening day, and right through the Rugby World Cup, the Gallery will have the entire Robertson Promised Gift of 15 world-class modernist artworks on display.

The collection, owned by New York art collectors Julian and Josie Robertson, includes artworks by Picasso, Dalí, Mondrian, Matisse and other similarly significant artists.

In 2009 the Robertsons pledged to bequeath these artworks to the Gallery. A showcase of five paintings that year attracted 10,000 visitors in just one week, so we're thrilled to be able to share the whole collection with Aucklanders and all our visitors when we open.

Yesterday we invited media to tour some of the restored and renovated Gallery spaces - this is the sight that awaited them in the newly named Julian and Josie Robertson galleries. We are proud to be able to honour both Josie (who sadly passed away in 2010) and Julian in this way.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Jim Vivieaere

12 September 1947 – 3 June 2011

On Sunday 12 June 2011, the Fale Pasifika at the University of Auckland became the venue for a truly heart-rending and beautiful funeral service to honour the life of Jim Vivieaere. Hundreds of people gathered to remember and respect this exceptional New Zealander.

Jim himself was involved with all aspects of planning towards this gathering. The intimacy and palpable valedictory nature of this event conveyed the reality of Jim’s presence. His love for his family and friends, his respect for the lives of others, his cherishing of talent and his incisive mentoring - all became themes which were spoken of in a heartfelt testimony. So many of the qualities and emotions that we loved and admired about Jim were present in this memorable occasion.

When all had gathered and sung together the song ‘I can see clearly now the rain has gone’, the hau tonga that had been steadily gusting just dropped down to a quiet breeze. The sun emerged suddenly with quite some heat to it and brightly lit the fale’s sculpture of atafa, the frigate birds, which Jim had installed. With that song’s expression of ever-lasting hope, we all felt Jim’s company and his loss at the very same moment.

With Jim’s sudden passing, we have lost a wonderfully generous and hugely talented artist whose influence will certainly be on going. As an artist, a curator, mentor, arts advisor, cook and teacher, Jim was one unique and beautiful person. Not surprisingly, it took his passing for everyone to realise, at the forefront of their feeling and inside their heart’s own thinking, how central Jim has been to contemporary art in New Zealand and the Pacific.

Pele Walker was one of the many speakers to warmly share how much Jim has given to us all during his remarkable life. She spoke on behalf of the arts community and for Creative New Zealand, who Jim had assisted for many years as an exceptional mentor and incisive arts assessor.

Pele noted something that it is essential to know about Jim Vivieaere saying that he ‘is a pivotal figure in New Zealand’s contemporary arts community and in the Pacific arts community, he has been even more so. Jim was instrumental in raising the profile and recognition of Pacific Island artists in New Zealand and overseas. He was a mentor, a role model, a friend to many.’

In 2006, Creative New Zealand’s Pacific Arts Committee awarded the Senior Pacific artist award to Jim. The award stated that this was ‘to recognise his contribution, his achievements and his standing as a senior artist and an international curator.’ This reflects the fact that over many years, he has exhibited and taught internationally, and has always sought to profile the achievement of contemporary Pacific artists to the entire world.

Jim was one of the earliest recipients of the Möet et Chandon fellowships. Yet, as an artist, he never put himself first and this gave his artwork a wonderfully insightful and oxygenated shimmer. There was always a sense that Jim’s art was part of one on-going project that looked at how contemporary art could both reflect the Pacific and question it at the very same moment. This ability to both celebrate and review his own art became a signature of Jim’s art production.

For many years, his art maintained an on-going conversation about what oceans mean to us as inhabitants of the Pacific. As a Cook Islander brought up away from his own family and heritage, he understood diaspora and globalism more viscerally than most artists ever need to understand, let alone inhabit as a rationale both for their art and their identity.

I was lucky enough to be able to talk with Jim about an installation that he was always planning but which, unfortunately, he was not able to realise during his lifetime. This installation was going to be like an autobiography of voyaging across water to many cities, over many years and which encountered numerous people. Perhaps one day Jim’s vision of the ‘oceans in us’ will become manifested by the fulfilment of his art project.

To me, Jim was a brilliant curator, simply and intuitively. One of the best curators that I have ever known or are ever likely to know. His astounding curatorial work with Bottled Ocean in 1994 changed how we saw Pacific art and artists. The effects of that exhibition are still living among us and will continue to do so. I was privileged to work along side Jim in the presentation of this groundbreaking exhibition at the Auckland Art Gallery and his instinctive and intuitive design for the presentation of Bottled Ocean remains one of the most important local innovations in the presentation of contemporary art in a public museum.

Jim was an old soul. A seer, a harbinger and a pivotal catalyst for the entire art community. It was no shock to see the outpouring of grief at the funeral. Everyone present realised that they had lost a rare and astonishing friend.

E te rangatira, Jim. Na te nui ou, nga te rongo ou, I heke ai te roimata.

Moe mai I to moenga roa. Na o hoa mahi o Toi o Tämaki.

Ron Brownson

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

On the move

As we announced last week, the Gallery's main building will open its doors on September 3 - but there's still a lot of work to be done behind the scenes in the coming months!

Hawkins are putting the finishing touches on the building (which you can continue to peek at on our webcam), while staff are preparing to move back in after three years in 'exile'.

Our security team has already settled into the developed building, and next up are the conservation teams. They're not exactly light packers, though - here are some pictures of the painting conservation lab as they prepare for the move:

Tools of the trade


... and more boxes...

... and there's still all this to be packed up!

Meanwhile the paper conservation lab is giving the moving crews a good workout. There's all manner of heavy, unwieldy and fragile equipment, and it all has to come down from the ninth story of one building, across Queen Street and up to the new space.

You might not think this would be a problem - after all, that's what burly moving crews and moving trucks are for, right? Well, not in the case of this instrument:

This is a microscope used by the paper conservators and it can't be exposed to the kind of vibrations caused by moving vehicles. So it has to travel 'on foot', which means a painstaking voyage with two moving men, two bits of carpet and one conservation assistant (not shown) to supervise.

It's going to be a long day for these guys!

*Because of the move, the NEW Gallery will be closing one hour early (at 4pm instead of 5pm) on Thursday 9 June. Apologies for any inconvenience this may cause.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich

It is not widely known that Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886- 1969) collaborated with the brilliant Lilly Reich (1885-1847) on many interior and furniture designs between 1927 and 1939. Their joint work for the house Mies designed for Hermann Lange in Krefeld (1927-30) subsequently influenced the direction of avant-garde interior design.

Mies and Lilly collaborated for more than 12 years. The furniture they designed together is some of the best modernist work; simple and refined, technically innovative, often constructed with low cost materials. One exception is their Barcelona chair, which cost a fortune in 1929.

Her modest designs show the degree to which the interiors and finishings which Ludwig Wittgenstein designed for his family's home are both sumptuous and expensively crafted.

In 2007, the Lange House at Krefeld mounted an exhibition surveying the Lilly and Mies collaboration. It was an opportunity to see how one of the best modernist houses in Germany was not only an architectural tour-de-force; its construction inspired a partnership that influenced the future projects Mies and Lilly. Her contributions to the interior designs of the Tugendhat House (1929) in Brno are only just beginning to be acknowledged.

Todd Hosfelt’s blog has published two fine images of the exterior of the Lange House. Todd is publishing a fascinating profile of architecture:


To visit the Lange House:


The best study in English of the Lilly Reich and Mies van der Rohe collaboration was researched and written by Christiane Lange, the great-granddaughter of Hermann Lange:
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe & Lilly Reich – Furniture and Interiors, Ostfildern, Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2006. ISBN 978 7757 1921 6

This publication may be interloaned from Auckland Libraries.

The countdown has begun!

Documentation through Drawing

In 2009, artist Fiona Connor produced a series of drawings recording the demolition of the Gallery’s Edmiston Wing. The seven works in the Documentation through Drawing series were commissioned for Reading Room, the journal of art and culture published by the Gallery’s E.H. McCormick Research Library. They form a delicate and poetic response to the demolition of the Edmiston Wing, a part of the building that Connor had known since she was a child. The drawings are a personal record of a chapter in the Gallery’s life and Connor’s role as witness and documentarian.

With Documentation through Drawing, Connor explores the transience of things that seem permanent. She layers images to show time passing, and mirrors the cuts and perforations occurring in the Gallery’s architecture by physically cutting and removing sections of paper.

In this interview, Connor talked to me about her experience of making these beautiful and elegiac drawings:

What sparked your interest in this moment in the Gallery's life? Can you tell me how the project was initiated?

At the time I was working at the University of Auckland in the Classics and Ancient History Department and would visit Albert Park to eat my lunch. The demolition of the Edmiston Wing was incredible, like this sanctuary for art that I grew up with being deconstructed before my eyes! So I perched on the slope above the building site and took some pictures and made some drawings. Around the same I had a conversation with Sue Gardiner who encouraged me to push this further so I approached the Gallery and asked for access to the site which was granted on condition that I did a Site Safety Course.

Documentation through Drawing: Demolition at the Auckland Art Gallery 4, 2009

How do you use drawing in your practice, and what led you to use drawing as a method of documenting the demolition?

I was thinking a lot at the time about how photography gets used a trusted form of documentation but how drawing does not get used so much. I really enjoy drawing. For this series I would go really early in the morning to the building site. When I finished up I always had this feeling like: well what ever else is going to happen in the day I am already really satisfied. So nice to have this time to sit, watch and be in observation mode.

Can you describe how it felt to be in the partially-demolished building?

It was really energising to be amongst all the action. Sitting in the galleries watching these incredibly familiar surfaces (the brown tiles on the second floor, the carpeted stair case in the lobby, the Victorian architrave and fret work in the permanent collection) all being peeled back layer by layer to reveal their materiality. One morning I was sitting in one of the tiled galleries when the roof was ripped off and the ceiling became the gusty blue spring skies; it was like a perfect Situationist moment! Amazing. For me there was this lingering nostalgia for these times or moments in art history.

Documentation through Drawing: Demolition at the Auckland Art Gallery 5, 2009

I especially like how in one of the drawings you include the clock face in the Gallery's tower, and it shows two different times. Can you talk about how, rather than producing each drawing in one session, you returned to them at different times?

Most of these were done in one or two sittings because the site was changing so rapidly. Like I would do some drawing then come back and the spot that I had been sitting on was literally gone. Most of the drawings took about three hours which is about how long I can stay focused before I start sabotaging the work. This constraint of time and the materials I chose gives the series a consistency.

Documentation through Drawing: Demolition at the Auckland Art Gallery 1 2009

I think there is a sadness in the way that your drawings are so physically tangible, especially through the collage and cutout elements, but they show the building being demolished and physically removed. It's almost like they are fragile stand-ins for something that no longer exists. Do you think of them as melancholy?

That is funny for me I can’t remember any melancholy. When I made the cuts I was thinking about dealing with the paper as an architecture in itself.

Documentation through Drawing: Demolition at the Auckland Art Gallery 6 2009