Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Along with most art museums in NZ the Auckland Art Gallery posted tributes to Ralph Hotere on its blog Outpost. The posts were a powerful reminder of how quickly art museums can respond in situations like this to show they are an integral part of the wider art community. Included in the Auckland Art Gallery post was some info about the installation of Hotere’s 18 meter long mural Godwit/Kuaka. Apparently there were discussions with Hotere himself about how the new long corridor space at the Gallery perfectly matched the corridor where the mural had been originally installed at the Auckland International Airport. Later in the post, however, it also said the mural had been displayed on “the rear wall of the airport’s Arrivals Hall.” Confusing, but interesting just the same.

In less than half an hour there was a comment on the blog from someone who had been responsible for airport civil maintenance at the time the Hotere mural was at the Airport. The Auckland Art Gallery had it wrong, he said. Hotere’s mural was not in a corridor and nor was it in a ‘welcoming Arrival Hall’ but in the incoming passenger processing area. (It was Pat Hanly and Robert Ellis’s works that hung in the corridor). OK, so now what?

Well, nothing really. A couple of weeks later and there has been no response from the Gallery and it really feels like a lost opportunity. Is the Airport guy right? And if so what’s all the stuff about being in a the corridor about? And where exactly was it hung? It was an unusual chance to discuss an interesting and topical piece of art history, and it could have almost been done in real time. The thing is many people have these blogs on RSS feeds and read comments like this as they land. OK sure you might get some silly responses but to leave questions like this hanging misses a great opportunity to build interest, build audiences and clear up the corridor thing all at the same time.
Image: Ralph Hotere’s 1977 Working drawing for the central panels of the Auckland International Airport mural in the Hocken Library collection. In his book Native wit Hamish Keith who commissioned the work states that the Hotere hung in the Customs hall. 

COMMENT: (Andrew)  "I'm glad someone has finally cleared that up. Although I really enjoy the experience of swimming through the waves of colour that accompany you down the new corridor, it doesn't come close to the magnificent experience of seeing it whole when it was first shown at Auckland Art Gallery as part of the Out the Black Window exhibition. I've always wondered how people had mistaken 'arrivals hall' to mean a hallway when it was more of a town hall. The airport guy is right. The processing area (or customs hall) was basically the baggage hall, which it hung high above - I'm quite well acquainted with an ex-airport gal who worked under the mural for many years. We've been mystified for a while about the corridor thing."