It’s not often that speeches at art openings do anything much other than send you to sleep and make you wish you’d grabbed a chair or at least a window sill to sit on. Not the case last night at Te Papa when the acting CEO of Te Papa, Michelle Hippolite, the chair of the Arts Council and the Minister for Arts Culture and Heritage all did the unthinkable in launching the exhibition New Zealand at the Venice Biennale 2009. Hippolite kicked off by alluding to the Venice works of Francis Upritchard and Judy Millar as Taonga. Alastair Carruthers did something even more unusual: he talked knowledgably about his personal experience of the work. Then the Minister, not to be outdone, showed he both understood the arts and was prepared to stand up and be counted. Not only did he stand solidly behind et al. who was treated so abysmally during their Venice tour, but he also made it clear that the ongoing New Zealand presence in Venice was now ‘to be taken as a given’. Sounds great. We’ll hold you to it.
Images: Left, Frances Upritchard's Save Yourself now available at Te Papa in a brilliant white cube version. Right Judy Millar's Giraffe-Bottle-Gun now recreated at Te Papa.