Thursday 27 August 2009

Gallery development update

This is the beginning of a series of posts to provide regular updates on the progress of the Auckland Art Gallery's development project. Keeping you up to date on what's happening and showing some images so you can actually see the progress. Please feel free to add comments at the end of this post.

East Gallery Restoration
Restoration and reinstallation of the lantern windows has commenced with arrival of the replacement window section from Canada. Moulds have been made for casting of the replica ornate fibrous plaster ceiling tiles.

Façade Restoration
Façade refurbishment continues with lead-work, copper and gutter restoration currently taking place to both the Wellesley & Kitchener Street buildings. Scaffold was installed to allow access to the top of the clock tower flagpole to replace the pulley and halyard. The clock faces and hands are also undergoing refurbishment.

Wellesley & Kitchener Building
Works are progressing on the internal refurbishment of the existing Wellesley & Kitchener Buildings. The seismic strengthening is completed and works are now underway installing the new services, wall and ceiling linings.

New sections of the building
In the new part of the building, completion of the topping concrete is underway and completion of the ground floor is targeted for mid September. The first of the window for Park-view façade have now arrived and are being installed.

Photos by Jennifer French

Wednesday 26 August 2009

Crane Driver - a different view on the world

What is your name?


What is your job?
I drive the large crane being used for the Auckland Art Gallery building project.

How long have you been a crane driver?
7 years

How did you become a crane driver?
Whilst I was in Australia, I did a crane driving ticket which took a week. In NZ you do 16 units which are NZQA. I’m not sure how long it takes. When you get your ticket you work on the ground first, this job is known as the Dogman. The Dogman uses hand signals to the driver as well as a 2-way radio to communicate with the crane driver above. The Dogman also ties the loads and ensures all is safe before lifting.

Are there any restrictions for being a crane driver?
No. If you can climb the crane and fit in the cab then you’re alright.

What is the age of retirement for a crane driver?
No age limit. I know a guy who is in his sixties and still climbing and driving cranes.

Where are your toilet facilities in the cab?
There are basic facilities in the crane cab but if you need a no.2 then you have to climb down! There is liquid sanitiser in the crane.

How many days of the week do you work on average?
Six days

How many hours of the week do you work on average?
55 hours

What is the name of the crane and who named it?
The gallery crane is a 355 Liebherr model crane, with a maximum carry load of 16Tonne.

The crane is affectionately called King Curtis and named by a local crane enthusiast

What is it like to drive the crane?
It is rewarding to see the results at completion.

What has been a highlight for you on this project?
Lifting in a 16Tonne panel for the lift pit.

What’s it like climbing the crane and how long does it take you?
If I am in a hurry I could climb it in 3 minutes and I know how fire fighters feel when they have to climb

How do you communicate with the rest of your crew on the ground?
Two way radio and hand signals.

Does the crane rock when you are up in the crane cab?

What is the highest crane height you have been in?

Describe the view? What can you see?
Albert Park, Wharf crane, bit of the ocean and it’s not unusual to see naked people walking around in their apartments!

What is up in the crane? TV/Music/Books/Fridge/Heater?
A CD player, a radio, a heater, no air conditioner.

How do you deal with isolation in the crane cab?
When there is a wait time or down time, I talk on the 2 way radio to the crew about anything and everything, tell jokes etc

Were you ever afraid of heights? Have you ever felt woozy?
Yes I was afraid of heights, but I have overcome it through being a crane driver after so many years. I have never felt woozy.

What is the most dangerous situation you have been in whilst driving the crane?
The most dangerous situation would have to be when I was at my maximum reach and the brake wouldn’t hold on a very windy day. We managed okay though. Windy days always prove difficult because of the surroundings, other buildings etc.

What is your favourite art work?
Charles Goldie’s artwork of the Maoris

Who is your favourite artist?
Charles Frederick Goldie
Leonardo Da Vinci – Mona Lisa

What is so special about being a Crane Drive?
When I’m not up in the crane cab, it’s great interacting with the subs on the ground. Good bunch, they have to be on good terms with a Crane Driver to facilitate prompt unloading.

Also, seeing the project complete, feeling a part of it and proud to share with others that you helped build it.

Lastly, the views from the crane, is another dimension.

Do you have any words for aspiring crane drivers?
Take your time learning the skills. Safety is a high priority. You must abide by what you can and cannot do. You must understand the capacity of loads, correct gears your working with. You must know how to safety load and tie. You must communicate all the time from load, lift to placing. One mistake and it could be fatal.

I really enjoy my job!

Image Credits:

Photos by Jennifer French

Tuesday 25 August 2009

Back to the future

As most of you know, our main building is currently under development until 2011 as we are restoring, strengthening and building to improve the space and provide new public areas, integrating better with Albert Park and the surroundings.

We now have this fanstic animation, developed to show you a sense of what the building will look like when it reopens. Basically a virtual tour, into the future. Let me know what you think?

Tuesday 11 August 2009

Forensics on fashion

It is not common for art writers to utilise fashion history in their discussion of paintings or sculpture, let alone photography. Locally, Wystan Curnow has been doing some interesting research into the history of the costume worn in Rita Angus’ now famous portrait of his mother, the late Betty Curnow.

Here are three unusual ambrotypes that I wish to date via their subject’s costume and their photographic style. ‘Ambros’ were mostly produced during the 1860s, when they had become cheaper versions of the daguerreotype process. Ambrotypes had already gained wide currency from the early 1870s but were superseded by tintypes and cartes-de-visite within a decade. Click here for my previous post on ambrotypes.

This ambrotype (above) is dated May 1877. As such, it is already a late instance of the medium. The photographer cleverly uses a low-angle, candid point-of-view which was already becoming common within wet-plate photography by the later 1870s. Dry-plate photography had been invented in 1871 and a photo’s exposure time was therefore much reduced. The camera here sits on a tripod ‘looking’ at this family group, all of which have been carefully arranged within the carriage. They are individually posed in order that they can all be seen clearly. Yet, their poses appear both natural and spontaneous. This is the work of an experienced ambrotypist as this was still a difficult medium to use out of doors.

Note how the man at left wears a bowler riding-hat. None of the men wear a top-frock coat; instead, they are all attired in morning coats. This probably means that they are members of the emergent middle class. Charles Dickens' favourite readers. The two boys wear dyed straw boater hats, always suitable for summer. The carriage’s banner sign shows that the cost of their excursion ‘To the Dyke and Back’ will cost one and six-pence.

This is a much wealthier group of land-owning men. Once they would have simply been called 'toffs' - smartly dressed men. Their black silk top hats, frock coats, lighter trousers are the uniform of the privileged during the mid-1860s. The figure fourth from the left has a figure-hugging, cloth country suit, which appears to be double-breasted. This is very dashing attire for this time.

What are these men doing together? They could be all be setting forth on a country outing to a sporting event where wearing such formal clothes was absolutely necessary. Their extensive whiskers were called muttonchops or dundrearies. Look at their mixture of hats – top hats, stovepipes, chimney pots. In addition, their decorative extras – fob watch, buttonhole flowers. Not the look of the ‘working-class’ at all.

These guys are what we would now call labourers. Practical men who work with their hands. The signage on the wagon’s tarpaulin, in the ambrotype above, reads ‘The Whitehead 72 Hoxton Street opposite the Britannia Theatre’. A London address. Partially obscured is the painted sign on the sides of this huge wagon that reads ‘By road haul’. What is already apparent is that these are the men who actually work with this wagon. See how their posture and demeanour says that they 'possess' the daily work of this wagon.

Three of them wear high bowlers, one a well-worn short top hat, the other a homburg style and the boy has a soft cap. To our eyes these blokes seem formally dressed but this dressiness was not at all unusual for the period – the mid-1860s. Men in the public transport arena still had to be hatted and coated. While also wearing a tie or buttoned up collar. Look at how relaxed they are. They may never have been photographed before. This is a 19th century equivalent of a snapshot in all its casualness.

An anonymous writer in The Quarterly Review for March 1847 commented: ‘The male costume is reduced to a mysterious combination of the inconvenient and the unpicturesque – hot in summer – cold in winter – stiff without being plain – bare without being simple – not durable, not becoming and not cheap….The hat is a machine to which an impartial stranger might impute a variety of culinary purposes, but would never dream of putting on his head.’

However, English costume between 1860 and 1880 was socially stratified and classified according to one’s position in society. A man or boy never thought of wearing anything outside their ‘station’. These three ambrotypes are very scarce outdoorsy instances of the Victorian hierarchy to personal appearance.

Image credits
Unknown photographer England active 1870s
Carriage excursion – To the Dyke and Back May 1877
61 x 74mm

Unknown photographer England active 1860s
Carriage excursion circa 1865
60 x 72mm

Unknown photographer England active 1870s
Wagon and workers circa 1870
58 x 70mm

Monday 3 August 2009

Interpreting Rita

Rita Angus, Portrait of Betty Curnow, 1942
oil on canvas, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, purchased 1970
reproduced courtesy of the Rita Angus Estate

Rita Angus: Life & Vision opened with a flourish at the Auckland Art Gallery this weekend. We had huge numbers of people through the door showing just how popular this touring exhibition from Te Papa is.

After leaving on Friday from a packed media preview and a vibrant opening for the exhibition it was fantastic to come back on Monday morning to find these images from our Kids Club tutor, Kate Sellar. They show the children's responses to Rita Angus: Life & Vision, and in particular, Portrait of Betty Curnow from this weekends Kids Club workshop.

These were done by children ages 5 to 10 years of age, how amazing, I don't think I could have done a better job at capturing the character of the painting.

Rita Angus: Life & Vision
1 August - 1 November 2009
Auckland Art Gallery