Behind the Scenes: Registrar Amber Baldock

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Amber with a selection of Yvonne Todd works

Amber with a selection of Yvonne Todd works

Amber Baldock is the Registrar at City Gallery and works behind the scenes on all of our exhibitions. As part of the exhibition team, Amber helps organise shows, supports curators and works with lenders to secure and safely display the artworks the gallery borrows. We asked Amber a few questions about what she does, and in particular what’s involved in pulling together the upcoming exhibition Yvonne Todd: Creamy Psychology – one of the Gallery’s largest exhibitions to date.

Firstly, can you tell us a little about yourself and how you came to work as a registrar at City Gallery?

I'm a Wellingtonian. I grew up across the harbour in Eastbourne, with three older brothers. I studied at Victoria University completing a Bachelor of Music and a Bachelor of Arts. After finishing my honours in Art History at Melbourne University, I came back to try my hand at working in the GLAM sector (galleries, libraries, archives and museums), oh… and pay off my student loan!

After volunteering at various organisations and working in the completely unrelated field of electricity, I secured my first full-time ‘glam’-our job at Te Papa as a Loans Officer. Then came the opportunity to work at City Gallery and I was extremely fortunate to get this job.

You’re very much involved in the exhibition process, can you tell us what your job involves?

A registrar’s role is often likened to kaitiaki or guardian - managing the care of artworks that come in to the gallery. Working in the exhibition team, I help oversee and organise the incoming loans, coordinating the logistics for collecting artworks, regionally, nationally and internationally. Additionally, we are also responsible for ensuring the gallery, as a building, is behaving as it should, with all the right lighting levels, environmental conditions and security conditions being in place. It’s a varied role and one that is never dull. Being part of a smaller organisation there is a lot of scope to assist in a variety of areas, be it installing artworks, driving a truck or recording the condition of artworks that come into our care. It’s these daily physical associations with the artworks that I enjoy about my role.

What’s one of your most memorable experiences/ highlight as Registrar?

It may sound twee, but it is immensely satisfying each time an exhibition opens, on time and to the appreciation of others. It is hard to think of just one memorable moment, but at a push, successfully transporting a giant human head into the Gallery, getting it safely through the door and on to its plinth and out again. It was a mission to say the least, but one that we handled without headache (excuse the dad joke). Another was constructing three school desks and chairs made entirely from chalk, stands out as one of the more unusual installations, as it's an unusual material to work with.

Recently, I learned the craft of making arms for mannequins under the guidance of Anne Peranteau, one of Te Papa's Textile Conservators - these mannequins will be used to show the selection of designer vintage gowns in the Frock Room, which is part of Yvonne Todd's exhibition.

Amber making mannequins at Te Papa

Making mannequins at Te Papa

Yvonne Todd: Creamy Psychology opens early December, what are you currently working on for this exhibition?

Over the coming weeks, we’ll start travelling the Island and collecting the artworks that we are planning to show in the exhibition. Some are already on their way from overseas, so now it is time for the local works to come hither. It does mean, at the same time, we need to start organising the de-installation and return of William Kentridge’s The Refusal of Time, which has come around mighty quickly.

What are you enjoying most about working on this exhibition?

Getting to see the artworks in the flesh is one of the most enjoyable parts of my role. Throughout the planning, the artworks appear as just small thumbnails on an object list, but now they come into their own as the exhibition opening looms. It is also a delight to meet the lenders who are so generous with their support; hearing their stories and the significance the artworks have to them is a great treat.

Olivia Lacey, Publicist

Yvonne Todd: Creamy Psychology opens on 6 December and runs until 1 March