Monday, August 04, 2014

No show

A couple of months after arriving at the City Gallery the new Senior curator Robert Leonard put up a small exhibition looking at some artists who'd made Peter McLeavey the subject of their work. It was the result of long-time contacts, specialist knowledge and a few quick ring arounds. There are a few things you need to be so nimble in an art institution. One is good will from lenders and the other a director who'll put in resources and ride with the odd bumps shows like this can present in the making.

Briefly there was a sign that Te Papa too was setting its sights on developing and presenting curatorial ideas quickly. The Acting Senior curator Sarah Farrar had in mind an exhibition looking at borders and how they affected the making and moving of art. It would have been the first non-collection group show of contemporary art since Te Papa's opening exhibition in 1998. So a good sign.

Last time we heard of it the boundaries show had the go ahead but, as it turns out, not the will of the institution. We now hear the show has been abandoned because of a lack of resources - this in an institution with a staff of 250 plus and an annual budget of $60 million. It’s not a big buck investment in an international blockbuster we’re talking about here so for Te Papa to have to cancel indicates its financial situation is even worse than they've admitted so far. This is also indicated by Peter Jackson taking his design of a life-sized replica WWI trench display away from Te Papa and up to the Waiouru Army Museum. Bet they find the 'resourses' to replace that hole in the wall.

Anyway, the next time anyone from senior management says Te Papa is committed to contemporary art, hold up your LOL sign.

As a bizarre footnote and possibly to sweeten her disappointment at the cancellation of the show Sarah Farrar was sent on a trip to the UK to attend the Attingham Trust Summer School. It is an opportunity for Te Papa's Curator of Contemporary Art to spend “three weeks in concentrated study of the architecture and interiors of country houses.“ Maybe it’s WTF signs we should all be holding up.