Friday, August 22, 2014

Better than collecting dust

News that the Christchurch Art Gallery has just raised ‘more than $80,000 toward a Bill Culbert sculpture installation' (if $80K is just ‘towards’ it’s surely a record price for the artist) is an indication of director Jenny Harper's unswerving belief in the importance of collections. This resolve is not as common as you might assume. Many of NZ's art museums have let acquisitions budgets shrink as staff numbers and marketing costs have soared. There was a time when the collection was at the very heart of public art museums but this heart has long been replaced with the temporary exhibition and its ability (or let’s face it failure) to haul in big crowds. The usual complaint that art-is-sooooo-expensive-these-days-we-can’t-afford-it’ is kind of blown out of the water when you hear that one of Michael Stevenson’s meticulous and mysterious drawings went for just $5,875.00 at Webb’s last auction or at Art + Object where you could pick up a sensational Don Driver for around $15,000 and work by l budd for considerably less. Christchurch Art Gallery has understood that waiting around for the City Council to provide more funds for purchases is a thing of the past. It's drawn on crowd sourcing channels like Pledgeme and Boosted and made smart use of gifted money to leverage even more works into its collection. The Christchurch Art Gallery also encourages gifts. You might ask 'who wouldn’t?' but many of our art museums are oddly reluctant to ask for gifts. To find out why they'll probably have to go deep into therapy.

Image: Christchurch Art Gallery's work Bebop by Bill Culbert as shown in Venice