Heading into the Pompidou in Paris we looked up into a space that will always be owned for us by Neil Dawson. Back in 1989 he was the only New Zealander invited to participate in the controversial (and as it has turned out prescient) exhibition Magiciens de la terre.
The exhibition featured 50 artists from what was described as the "centers of contemporary culture” and 50 artists from” the cultural margins.” Guess where NZ’s sculptor was located?
Dawson’s installation Globe was the planet Earth as seen from outer space suspended above the famous museum’s large forecourt. We remember a scratchy phone call late one night with a very tired Neil telling us of his escapades, including paying off a city official in a dark alley so he would allowed to attach the wires to the buildings opposite the Pompidou. The staff of the great museum took a very French view of Neil’s travails which seemed to involve looking the other way and humming softly to themselves.
Suspending Globe outside the Pompidou - so far as we know no one has ever attempted such a thing again - has to be one of the most gutsy feats attempted by an NZ artist. That it was done virtually unaided by Neil with the assistance of Bruce Edgar is all the more remarkable.