Tuesday 30 September 2008

On Photography - up on the roof

In contrast to my last post, the most recent photography acquisition of the Auckland Art Gallery is Richard Collins’ photograph Auckland Roofs of 1973. Richard was born in Wellington and educated at Christ's College, Christchurch before he trained as an architect at the University of Auckland. He began his photography during the early 1960s and learnt to make prints from Gary Baigent. Using a 35mm camera, he travelled throughout New Zealand making lyrical photographs of young adults and the ways in which they were then living.

Auckland Roofs is an impressive image because it is wonderfully subtle. As a large-scale vintage exhibition print, it is also a tremendous discovery for the Gallery. Two men (as seen in the detail above) survey Auckland from the top of the roof on a Freeman's Bay villa, in Franklin Road. The image was produced at the time when Ponsonby was still regarded as being an area of low cost housing dating from the Victorian era. Students, senior citizens and immigrant Pacific Islanders where the predominant residents of this inner city suburb.

Richard has obviously had to climb onto the roof of the house to get the image. The surreal notion of there being another rooftop ‘world’ is typical of the artist’s discerning humour, when an unexpected moment quickly marks the occasion of the image’s gathering. The tone of the print expresses the summer’s day with limpid heat. Looking back, we can sense the small town quality which Auckland still had the vestiges of in the early 1970s.


Richard Collins
Auckland Roofs
Gelatin silver print
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, purchased 2008

Thursday 25 September 2008

What's going on?

If any of you are wondering how work is progressing on the main gallery during the development, you can get a birds-eye-view of the construction progress through the development webcam. Just click here to take a peak.

In time i'm hoping to add a timelapse of the construction to replace the current slideshow.

Monday 22 September 2008

Exchange ahoy!

Every year the Research Library sends out the Auckland Art Gallery's latest publications on exchange to around 70 public art gallery's at home and abroad, including the Tate, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Centre Pompidou to name a few. Caroline McBride (pictured) cheerfully packages up the exhibition catalogues Mystic Truths, Turuki Turuki! Paneke Paneke! and the Walters Prize 2008, and the second issue of the "Reading Room" journal. The publications exchange programme is a long-standing tradition between art libraries around the world. It is a very successful collegial activity, providing access to a wide range of current exhibition catalogues and a form of targeted distribution.

Thursday 18 September 2008

On Photography - Truganini

The first photograph added to the Auckland Art Gallery’s collection
was this remarkable and disturbing Australian photograph titled The Last of the Native Race of Tasmania. It was acquired in 1893 (1893/2) and was a gift from Sir George Grey. Taken by Henry Frith about 1866 it includes, from left, Mary-Ann, William Lanne, Bessie Clark and Truganini.

Truganini was born about 1812 on Bruny Island, south of Hobart. Her name means the grey saltbush (Atriplex cinerea). Truganini’s mother was murdered by whalers, as were most of her family.

In 1873, Truganini was thought to be the sole surviving Tasmanian Aborigine, as her husband William Lanne died in 1869. When Truganini died in 1876, she was given a government funeral but her coffin was deliberately left empty and her body interred in the Hobart Penitentiary’s vault. Truganini’s body was exhumed two years later, her bones cleaned of their flesh, and her skeleton articulated and placed on public display at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. Her skeleton remained on exhibit until 1947. Only on the centenary of her death in 1976, did Truganini gain her dying wish that her ashes be scattered in the D’Entrecasteaux Channel.

Knowing this, the hand-coloured sepia photograph becomes a testament of cruelty. All the figures are attired in their missionary ‘Sunday best’ and come across as sentinels who actually mark the passing of Tasmania’s indigenous people. The photograph’s title reinforces such a reading. The Corinthian columns further accentuate the image’s colonial reality as a visual document of genocide.

Read more On Photography here

Wednesday 17 September 2008

Selecting works for The Enchanted Garden

Perhaps the hardest thing when commencing preparation for an exhibition is selecting works for the show. After building up a possible list off the database, the curator spends a number of days in the Gallery’s art stores. That is when the fun starts, as far as I am concerned, because while any work that has been exhibited is mounted in a cardboard matt with a backing board, there are often loose prints or drawings or watercolours, each housed in folded acid free tissue to protect the work.

These have never been matted, or therefore exhibited, and simply lie quietly in their box hoping their turn will come. Some, of course, may never see the light of day – perhaps they were acquired long in the past – we have lots of prints and drawings of sheep, for example, because early donors were homesick for the Scottish Highlands– or because over time the work has degraded and cannot be treated, so that it become unexhibitable.

For every one of those, however, there will be a hundred or so works which catch the eye, and what should be a short task stretches because it is impossible to resist the temptation to go through each box in its entirety. In this way, curators really get to know their collection.

When I first started working at the gallery in 1998, I used the contents of the boxes to get ideas for possible exhibitions, building lists of themes, such as Politics, Death, Theatre, etc. We didn’t have the great database and website we have now, but I still go back to these lists just to check that there isn’t some work that has slipped off the radar. These are added to my exhibition list, which I then print out with small images and locations.

Then the hard work really starts, because each one has to be examined, the vertically challenged often requiring helpers who can pull out heavy painting racks, and assist with carrying some of the heavier solander boxes. Sculptures are trickier, because they are usually packed in crates, but as we have fewer they tend to be familiar.

The works have to fit the brief, and all be approved by the Gallery Conservators before final approval, and inevitably certain works get eliminated during the process.

This is the second of my series of posts on the planning process for my upcoming exhibition The Enchanted Garden. To read the first post, click here.

image credits from the top:

The old print room

Conservator at work

Joseph Moran Granny Smith gouache
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki gift of Mrs K M Marsh, 1976

Harold Knight White Clematis oil on canvas
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki purchased 1912

Johann Ladenspelder, after Albrecht Dürer, Adam and Eve after 1504 engraving
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, gift of Wallace Alexander, 1940

Monday 15 September 2008

What do you think of number 2

Here is the next in our series of commissioned artworks for our campaign "What do you think of this?".

The last one, as mentioned in this post, was by Dick Frizzell. This time Judy Darragh worked with us to produce a very different image to Dick's. Feel free to leave your comment or feedback on the website here.

Friday 12 September 2008

1 Day to go - did we remember everything?

Well there is no time left if we have forgotten anything. The opening is tonight and the exhibition opens to the public tomorrow morning at 10am. No one knows who the judge, Catherine David, will choose but we do know that we are nearly finished installing the 2008 Walters Prize. Phew!

The final of the four finalists I've shown on the blog is Edith Amituanai and here are some images of the installation of her artwork Déjeuner. They looked fabulous all wrapped up in bubble wrap and positioned on the floor of the gallery, ready for Edith to place them on the walls.

Thursday 11 September 2008

2 days to go.....

The artwork has all arrived, the catalogue is ready, the label copy is in and the paint is drying.

With the 2008 Walters Prize exhibition opening to the public on Saturday, activity hits fever pitch at the gallery. I went down there yesterday to see the exhibition space for Lisa Reihana's artwork Digital Marae.

Lisa's space is dark and moody and although the photographs are still sealed away in their protective coats, you can sense that it will look extremely powerful in the two rooms they are being installed in.

Monday 8 September 2008

5 days to go.....

Tick tock....the hustle and bustle increases to high speed in the Auckland Art Gallery this week with the opening of the 2008 Walters Prize just a few days away (it opens to the public on Saturday 13 September).

I had a look at the all the installations in progress today and it looks fantastic. The space is full of people getting everything done, preparing walls, installing artwork, adjusting lighting and much more.

I gave you a sneak peak at John Reynolds installing his work Cloud last week, so here is a view of Peter Robinson's work ACK when the artist did a trial installation of the work in the Wellesley Gallery in the main building (before the start of the redevelopment) prior to it's installation at the New Gallery. It was first exhibited in ARTSPACE in 2006.

The lines on the floor map out the exhibition space at the New Gallery so the artist, curator, and preparators can plan the gallery space where these huge pieces of work will be sited and how it will be laid out in the New Gallery.

Photos by John McIver

Next up.....Lisa Reihana

Thursday 4 September 2008

9 days to go.......

With only 9 days until the opening of the 2008 Walters Prize it’s a busy time at the gallery with work being shipped in and installed, and exhibition spaces being transformed. Our team of preparators work very hard to ensure that in the short turn around time between exhibitions, everything runs as smoothly as it can.

I thought I would give you a behind-the-scenes view of what it is like while this is all going on, starting with John Reynolds, one of the four 2008 Walters Prize finalists, and the installation of his work Cloud.

Cloud consists of over 7000 (yes that’s not a typo) small paintings, all individually packaged in numerous boxes, carefully sent from Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa who own the work. The conservation team (the happy bunch in the image below) have prepared condition reports on each painting individually to make sure no damage occurred in transit. They have been a very busy bunch.

Painting Conservator, Ingrid ford (back right of the image) says,

"With over 7000 pieces and after 156 hours, 4 conservators, 3 volunteers, the artist, his assistant and 2 gallery guides, this artwork is going on the wall and finally taking shape. It looks fabulous!"

As the work is so large it expands from the ground floor up over to the second floor of the New Gallery. This has involved putting scaffolding up in the gallery.

Finally, here is John Reynolds himself working on the installation of his work.

Photos by Jennifer French

Next time....... the installation of Ack by Peter Robinson

On Photography - What is an ambrotype?

Ambrotypes were one of the earliest photographic processes. Called by the British a ‘wet collodion positive on glass’, the ambrotype was developed by Frederick Scott Archer in 1851. It was used mostly for small portraits during the 1850s and 1860s.

Technically, it is fascinating process. Firstly, an underexposed collodion negative on glass is bleached of its whitish tone by the application of nitric acid or mercury bichloride. It is then backed with either black lacquer or black paper to present a positive image. Ambrotypes were often mounted in a cased frame with a hinged cover. Each ambrotype, just as with daguerreotypes is a one-off. A unique image from one exposure. As they were easier to tint, ambrotypes are often retouched with gold paint to highlight jewellery and add reddish tones for women’s lips and cheeks. By the late 1860s, ambrotypes were replaced with carte de visites and tintypes.

The names of the sitters for ambrotypes are often lost after the portrait leaves the care of the person and family who first possessed it. However, this ambrotype has an added ink inscription in copperplate handwriting on paper, inserted inside the photograph’s case. This is a portrait of William Leyfield, a Master at the Beetham School, Kendal in Westmoreland. He died on June 15 1859, aged 22. William is probably aged about 19 years in this very formal portrait, which makes him look very stern.

The inclusion of a framed painting within an ambrotype is uncommon, especially since it skews the seated position of the young man.