Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Te Papa and Auckland Art Gallery go head to head on Google

Last week the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki and Te Papa launched as part of Google’s Art Project. On this site you can view art works in public collections around the world. The basic offering gives you art works in extreme close-up so you can get some feeling for texture. That particular feature is more useful on Rohan Wealleans, say, than Gordon Walters. 

Google will no doubt hope that the contributions by Te Papa and the Auckland Art Gallery will increase and that other NZ institutions will participate. We're waiting for NZ to venture into Street View-like presentations where you can get some idea of walking around the galleries. The Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar is particularly glamorous.

Then there's the curation. It's fascinating to see how the two NZ institutions chose to represent themselves in this global melting pot. First up, women make up around 25 percent in both selections although Te Papa only shows work of women pre 1930.

In its 85 artworks by 79 artists the Auckland Art Gallery went with a wide cross-section in terms of date and media. The most recent works seem to be (you can't filter by date) Andrew McLeod's Fuseli tribute I and Bill Culbert's Flat out, both from 2009. By contrast Te Papa chose to ignore the last 40 years in its visual art offering. Only work made before 1970 (works by Gordon Walters, Pat Hanly and Ian Scott all from 1969 mark the cut-off) is included. 

Then, in an X-Files moment, both institutions have included almost identical paintings by Ian Scott (AAG Sky dash 1969 and Te P Leapaway girl 1969). Even the artist might find this a little surprising. Who'd have thought the up-skirt girly meme would have such legs?

Images: enlarged sections from images in the Auckland Art Gallery section of the Google Art Project. You can see if you are right about their names and dates here.