Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Forty whacks

One of our readers has filled us in on the Barry Lett sign affair and tells us that the new sign - this time for the RKS gallery - was designed by, you guessed it, Billy Apple. Thanks for that. Here though is an account by Wystan Curnow, written at the time and published in Art New Zealand Number 15, Autumn 1980 in his report The Given as an art-political statement. So thanks too to Wystan and Art NZ.

“That during the opening (ALTERATIONS: The Given as an Art-Political Statement 16 October 1979) an open letter to Rodney Kirk Smith from Barry Lett was distributed. It read, in part, as follows:
It is now over five years since I left Barry Lett Galleries and it is almost two years since I approached you with the serious proposal that you change the name of the gallery... Since then we have had numerous discussions on this subject and still nothing has been resolved. My opposition to the present situation continues to grow and intensify...Your current exhibition... offers a propitious moment for me to move from words into action... I have decided to remove and destroy the Barry Letts sign... which now hangs above the gallery entrance. I hope that this action speaks to you more powerfully than my words have.

“That muffled sounds of axe blows were to be heard. The screech of tires of - was it a getaway car? That the police arrived. That Barry Lett was subsequently charged with and convicted of wilful damage. And that Rodney Kirk Smith and Barry Lett have since come to an agreement on this matter.”