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.
Amidst the flurry of Triennial activities in Auckland last week, LOL encountered a work at Auckland Art Gallery that was, simply, beautiful. It was included in a modest exhibition of paintings by the late NZ artist, Tony Fomison. All too easily pigeonholed into the ‘New Zealand Gothic’ category, it is fair to say that Fomison’s work is often sombre, sometimes tortured – inhabited by distorted figures that variously recall Polynesian folklore, religious iconography and even the torment of the dead and dying. This is what makes ‘Beethoven’ (above) so arresting. Unlike Fomison’s typically dark terrain, the solitary figure here inhabits a domain of light, and one can’t help but entertain all of the symbolic associations that go with it; warmth; enlightenment, hope. A strange McCahon/Friedrich fusion, Fomison’s ‘Beethoven’ – painted over 30 years ago – is still radiant.
Chris Saines is the new director of the Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane. Saines has been the Director of Auckland Art Gallery since 1996 and oversaw its recent redevelopment. He replaces QAG/GOMA’s former Director Tony Elwood, who became Director of the NGV here in Melbourne in August. Saines will replace Acting QAG/GOMA Director Suhanya Raffel at the end of April.
Since 2005 Seung Yul Oh has been recording people blowing balloons up until they pop. Entitled The Ability to Blow Themselves Up, the project is about to launch into the realms of live performance for Made Active: The Chartwell Show, an exhibition featuring works from The Chartwell Collection that opens at Auckland Art Gallery on April 14th. Yul Oh has enlisted the help of 50 volunteers who, on the show’s opening date, will be stationed throughout the gallery from 3pm blowing up balloons over a 30 minute period. Live performance is a rare beast at AAG (in fact, this show heralds the first multi-artist performance program presented by the gallery since the 1970s), so be sure to head along if you’re in AK. The show runs until July 15th.
Anthony Byrt has reviewed the re-opening of Auckland Art Gallery (and Caterina Riva’s first exhibition for Artspace) for Artforum’s art diary. Is it a case of “New building, same gallery”? Find out here.
It’s not just the buildings that are getting an overhaul – Auckland Art Gallery has also launched a new website, and about time too. Their user-unfriendly site of old has been replaced with something flashier and, thankfully, more interactive. There’s a even a twitter feed (?). You can view Auckland Art Gallery online here.