Thursday 28 July 2011

We're in!

With the exception of the Library, shop and Friends staff, we are now ensconced in our new offices inside the Gallery.

There were a lot of boxes to be moved... (and this doesn't include what was sent to be archived)

I've put this next picture of a certain manager's office in for Gallery staff - it's almost unrecognisable all packed up. Visualise stacks of paper covering every available surface (including the floor) and you might be able to identify it!

While it's exciting to be back in the Gallery again, we will miss the view of Aotea Square from the balcony outside our lunchroom:

The trucks start arriving:

It'll be a while before our office spaces are 100% finished but here's a progress shot, taken before movers and IT staff invaded:

I'll post some more progress shots of the gallery spaces soon - or if there's anything specific you'd like to see, comment and let me know!

Monday 25 July 2011

Preserving the past

Paintings conservator Ingrid Ford celebrated 10 years with the Gallery over the weekend. Here’s just a short list of some of her many achievements for the conservation department during the last decade:

  • Playing a significant part in the preparation of works for the Gallery’s opening exhibitions, treating numerous paintings in a wide range of styles and periods
  • Overseeing the treatment, glazing and reframing of Lindauer’s historic portraits of Māori 
  • Conserving artworks sent to the Gallery from other regional museums and art galleries
  • Increasing public understanding of conservation, giving public lectures as well as tours of the conservation studios
  • Being asked to represent the Dunedin Public Art Gallery as their conservator when they had the touring Pre-Raphaelite exhibition from the Tate Gallery
  • Acting as secretary for the professional body of conservators, the NZCCM, for six years

Happy tenth anniversary, Ingrid! And thank you for everything you’ve done for the Gallery in the last decade.
You can find out more about the conservators and what they do here.

Friday 15 July 2011

Young people these days...

... are amazing. Seriously. Today the Gallery was the scene of an inspiring and evocative performance by 21 students from Matipo Primary School and cellist Katherine Uren of the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra.

Every year the APO and the Gallery collaborate with schools, helping them engage with artworks and create music in response. This year the students used Heart Book: Butterfly by Philippa Blair as their inspiration. They visited the Gallery to discuss the artwork with our education team and had workshops back in their classroom with Katherine to compose their piece.

Here they are introducing their performance:

A crowd gathered to hear the piece - we counted about 50 people in the audience!

I won't attempt to describe the piece because I'm hoping to show a video of the performance once it's been edited, but the students thought carefully about the themes in the artwork and worked hard to bring them out in three distinct sections of the composition: freedom, scribbles and captivity.

A very small audience member was transfixed by the performance:

The students received hearty applause before wowing us with their carefully thought-out answers in a short Q&A session. We then moved into another section of the Gallery to hear another piece of music inspired by art: young composer Callum Blackmore's piece 'D.S.I.R Man' which he wrote in response to Warren Viscoe's sculpture of the same name (seen below right).

I was really impressed with the way Callum spoke before his piece was played for us - he made sure the Matipo students could understand his thought process when composing the piece and the narrative behind its structure.

You can read more about Callum's piece here and more about Matipo Primary School and Katherine Uren's collaboration here.

Stay tuned for a video of the performance - it'll knock your socks off!

Friday 8 July 2011

Taonga Māori in the British Museum

Today is the last day of Māori Language Week and I could not let my 101st blog be about anything other than one of the most important books published in New Zealand during 2011.

Taonga Māori in the British Museum is an emblem of scholarship that every reader of this spectacular book should be inspired by.

First published by the British Museum in 2010, and now republished by Te Papa Press, this book is a comprehensive collection catalogue prepared by Dorota Starzecka, Roger Neich and Mick Prendergrast. [ISBN 978 1 877385 76 6]

There is no comparable volume presenting Taonga Māori held in any other museum, let alone New Zealand museum. As such, the book is a tremendous challenge to local curators to work on a subsequent volume based on New Zealand collections. For a start, I would suggest publishing the Taonga Māori held by Te Papa or Auckland Museum.

This book will transform what we know about taonga not only because it gives visual access to the British Museum’s renowned collection, it has a catalogue that contains knowledge that has hitherto been inaccessible. All of the key pieces are illustrated with outstanding black and white plates and the colour plates are breathtaking.

From the author’s foreword: ‘This catalogue…contains all the information about the objects known to the authors at the time of writing.’

What a deal of new information this book contains! Professor Roger Neich has attributed many of the taonga to place and date. When he knows it, he also names tribe and, sometimes, the carver. As always with any project associated with Roger, the scholarship is exemplary. David Simmons’s wonderful knowledge is also included, which in so many cases, is complementary to Roger’s. Mick Prendergrast’s unequalled knowledge of the Māori textiles at the British Museum has ensured that the book gains much from his specialist knowledge.

This is a book that I am going to learn from every single week. I am going to start studying the textiles first.

When will we see a Taonga Māori textiles catalogue prepared by Dr Patricia Te Arepo, the doyenne of Maori textile scholarship. Patricia’s enthralling lectures are the fruit of her profoundly gifted and inspirational research. She is one of my favourite scholars anywhere!

Tuesday 5 July 2011

Behind closed doors

Here's a quick update in pictures of what's been happening at the Gallery since our phased handover of the building began...

Our registration team moved in and the artworks started arriving...

And our photographers moved into their new digs (but there's still some unpacking to do!)... but best of all...
...There is art on the walls once more! This McCahon is the very first artwork to be installed in the developed Gallery spaces.

One down, approximately 800 to go! So now it's all hands on deck for our registrars, conservators, curators, technicians and designers as we prepare to welcome you into the Gallery on 3 September.

Edited to add: I've just realised the title for this blog post mirrors one my predecessor wrote almost exactly three years ago showing the empty Gallery spaces after it closed for development! And now we're moving back in... a serendipitous surprise.

Friday 1 July 2011

Coming home

When I started working at the Gallery in November I joined a people in exile. For more than three years the staff have waited in their temporary office environs, planning for the moment when the Gallery building would be returned to them in all its glory.

Now that the day is approaching there's been a discernible shift in the atmosphere in our offices. While there is still a huge amount of work to do (and a few anxious faces!), there's a real feeling of excitement and relief that at last it's all happening.

On June 13 members of Haerewa, our Māori advisory group, led staff members and members of the Hawkins construction team through the building for a blessing of the new and restored spaces. We filed quietly through the empty galleries, under the direction of our kaumatua Arnold Manaaki Wilson.

More recently an open afternoon was held so family and friends of Hawkins and Gallery staff could come and see the project that's consumed us for such a long time.

Crowds look into the North Atrium

Exploring the galleries

Viewing Albert Park from the sculpture terrace