Some Tauranga locals are up in arms over two images taken by NZ documentary photographer Fiona Clark in the early 1970s. Included in the current group exhibition Now and Then at Tauranga Art Gallery, the photographs were shot at a 1974 University of Auckland gay liberation dance and feature hand written ‘captions’ containing sexual references generated by the sitters. “This is not a good look for Tauranga” says resident Jocelyn Winwood, who is “disgusted that such exhibits can be viewed by the public” and has asked Bay of Plenty councillors to remove the works from exhibition.
The same images caused a stir when they were first exhibited in the seminal ‘Active Eye’ exhibition (New Zealand’s first survey of local contemporary photography) in 1975. Public outcry against Clark’s work was so strong that the show never opened at Auckland Art Gallery and the photographs were eventually removed from the touring component of the exhibition.
Nearly 40 years on there’s significant institutional support for Hall (she was the subject of a major exhibition, Go Girl, at Govett Brewster Art Gallery in 2002) and despite these renewed complaints, Tauranga Art Gallery is standing by the works. “We would not consider withdrawing any works as they are very much part of the exhibition” said Director Penelope Jackson. “Art often challenges us, both in good and bad ways. Given recent events with gay rights in New Zealand, the [Auckland University gay liberation] dance was part of our country’s history.”
It’s a shame that the same level of gallery support for ‘controversial’ work is lacking here in Melbourne, as the current Paul Yore furore attests. Rather than stand behind the work of the artist, Linden Centre for Contemporary Arts has simply closed its doors.