Wellington City’s Art in the Public Eye

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Media Release: March, 2010. 

Wellington City Council’s Art Collection opens in City Gallery Wellington’s Hancock Gallery.

The imposing physical presence of Paratene Matchitt’s iconic artwork Waharoa will be missing from its permanent home at the Central Library for the next few months. It has made the journey across Civic Square to City Gallery Wellington, where its hulking form will stand as the centrepiece of the Gallery’s new exhibition We are here, and there, opening this Saturday, 6 March.

Offering a fresh view of the City Council’s Art Collection is the goal of City Gallery’s latest exhibition, the first to draw from the Council’s extensive collection. The expansive space and natural light of the Gallery’s Hancock gallery space will enable Wellingtonians to experience these works in new ways.

The Council’s Arts and Culture Portfolio Leader, Councillor Ray Ahipene-Mercer, says he is delighted that people can now get a new perspective on the works he has come to know so well.

“As a member of the Council’s Art Collection Advisory Group, I get to contribute on what works we accept as gifts to the city, the works we may want to buy, and also where to place the works. It would be fair to say that the group has become very attached to a lot of these artworks, and I’m thrilled that Wellingtonians will be able to see some of it up close at City Gallery.

“Our art has been hung in highly visible public spaces, and as a result, the works have consistently generated excellent feedback from the public. While people would have seen pieces from the collection at places like the Central Library or the Town Hall, this is an opportunity for them to enjoy the collection in a gallery setting,” says Councillor Ahipene-Mercer.

Starting in Wellington’s Ngauranga Gorge and winding its way to an Antarctic Research Centre in Scotland, the exhibition charts a series of artistic responses towards the land or the landscape. It explores some of the myriad ways that the land has been pictured, invoked and contested in New Zealand art. In this exhibition, Paratene Matchitt is showing alongside Shane Cotton, Sir Tosswill Woollaston, early settler C.D. Barraud, and Wellington photographers Anne Noble and Wayne Barrar.

One generous gift has led directly to this exhibition. In 2004, Wellington businessman Russell Hancock bequeathed his art collection to the city, as well as significant funding to develop a public exhibition space. City Gallery Wellington’s 2009 redevelopment project provided the opportunity for his vision to be realised.

Wellington City Council has a collection of 340 artworks, found in the meeting rooms and offices of Council buildings, and on public display in the Central Library, Town Hall and the Michael Fowler Centre. The collection focuses on artists with a significant connection to Wellington, and/or those who have made or will make a lasting contribution to art and culture in the city.  Since 2002 the collection has centred around emerging and mid career artists, however it also has a substantial heritage holding, with art relating to Wellington’s key historical figures, events, and to the development of the city.

Artist Biographies

Wayne Barrar is Director of Photography at the School of Fine Arts, Massey University Wellington. Barrar’s project-based photography has been exhibited regularly in New Zealand and abroad, notably the USA, Canada and Norway. The Dunedin Public Art Gallery is staging the substantial survey exhibition Wayne Barrar: An Expanding Subterra from the end of March 2010.

Charles Decimus Barraud (1822-1897) was born in Camberwell, London and trained as a chemist and druggist. He arrived in Wellington on the Pilgrim in 1849 and set up a chemist on Lambton Quay, eventually opening stores in Napier and Whanganui. Barraud made significant contributions to both pharmacy and art in this country, assisting in the establishment of both the Academy of Fine Arts and the Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand.

Shane Cotton (Ngāti Rangi, Ngāti Hine, Te Uri Taniwha) is one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most significant painters, and has helped redefine the nature of contemporary Māori art. Graduating from the Ilam School of Fine Arts in 1988, Cotton exhibits regularly in New Zealand and abroad. His works are included in all major public collections in New Zealand, and in the collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney. City Gallery Wellington staged the first comprehensive survey of Cotton’s art in 2003.

Paratene Matchitt (Te Whānau ā Apanui) was born in Tokomaru Bay on the East Coast in 1933. He has exhibited widely in solo and group exhibitions since 1961, and is considered a leading artist of his generation. His practice takes many forms – painting, drawing, stained glass, and wood and metal sculptures. He is best known for his large-scale public sculpture such as the City to Sea bridge in Wellington (1993) and Auckland’s Aotea Centre (1989). Matchitt lives and works in Napier.

Anne Noble is Professor of Fine Arts (Photography) at Massey University Wellington. Noble has been at the forefront of photographic practice in New Zealand since the early 1980s, and has developed a substantial body of work that spans landscape, documentary and installation. In 2009, Noble was awarded a prestigious Arts Laureate awards from the Arts Foundation of New Zealand.

Toss Woollaston (1910 - 1998) was one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s foremost landscape painters, and a pioneer of modern art in this country. Born in Taranaki in 1910, he moved to Nelson in 1928, striking up a remarkable decades-long painterly engagement with the region. Woollaston was knighted for his services to art in 1979 – the first artist in New Zealand awarded this honour.