Behind the Scenes with Pauline Autet

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Pauline Autet is Curatorial Assistant and Researcher at City Gallery, working behind the scenes on many of our exhibitions.  Pauline assists our curators by tracking down works and researching the artists and stories behind them. We asked her a few questions about her role, and in particular about the upcoming exhibition History in the Taking: 40 Years of PhotoForum, opening Saturday 14 March.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you came to work at City Gallery?

I was born in Dijon, France, and moved to Kerikeri with my family ten years ago. After a few back and forth trips between New Zealand and Europe, I moved to Wellington to study Fine Arts at Massey where I also became interested in curatorial aspects of art exhibitions. I approached City Gallery about doing an internship and joined the team for six months. Following my internship, I went on a university exchange to Berkeley and then returned to Wellington where I resumed my intern role. After completing my degree, I began a new part-time position as Curatorial Assistant and Researcher at the Gallery. I have appreciated seeing how exhibitions are put together, being part of their development, with a very dedicated and knowledgable team, and learning from different curatorial processes.

You are involved in the curatorial process, can you tell us what your job entails?

For the past eighteen months, my main focus has been working on the Yvonne Todd exhibition. I assisted curator Robert Leonard on the realisation of the exhibition and publication, Creamy Psychology. I started off researching, compiling texts and articles about Yvonne’s practice, to form an archive that could be used to develop the publication. Working closely with the artist and her dealer gallery in Wellington, I also embarked on the search for works we wanted to exhibit and facilitated the loans from private and public collections. From there I worked on the exhibition layout with the registration team. We also liaised with designers and writers to get the publication ready for the opening in December 2014.

Can you describe one of the most memorable experiences from your time at City Gallery?

I really enjoyed working on The Obstinate Object with curator Aaron Lister. I think it was the first project I was involved with. It's always inspiring to work directly with artists as there is no better way to get an insight into their work than watching their process and hearing how they make the decisions. I was involved during the installation period and really enjoyed assisting artist Sian Torrington to set up her immersive installation. It consisted of colourful fabric wrapped around the internal structures of the Gallery. Installation is always a memorable time, it's when you start to see the exhibition take form. You never fully know what the result will be until the works are in the space and things are discussed and moved around a bit.

The opportunity to work on Creamy Psychology from start to finish was another highlight. It taught me a lot about the various steps to achieving such a large-scale exhibition and I was given the chance to be part of the conceptual process and take some initiatives, which I feel was a great experience.

History in the Taking: 40 Years of PhotoForum opens mid-March, what are you currently working on for this exhibition?

This exhibition was curated by Nina Seja and Geoffrey Short and shown at the Gus Fisher Gallery in Auckland in 2014 so there is less detective work involved. We have just completed unpacking all the works. Currently, I am working on laying out the exhibition, to fit the walls of the Deane and Hirschfeld Galleries, using computer plans.

What are you enjoying most about working on this exhibition?

I’m a practicing artist and photography is my primary medium, so I am particularly interested in photographic processes. I've enjoyed the chance to explore the history of PhotoForum and photography in New Zealand. The PhotoForum at 40 publication is a valuable resource for becoming more familiar with the work and stories of these artists who were such passionate advocates for their medium.

Pauline is one of the founders of Elbowroom, a Wellington pop-up project. She also works part-time at Te Papa and at 30upstairs in Courtenay Place, where her exhibition, Roofline Chase, is on until 28 February.

Olivia Lacey, Publicist