Thursday, September 20, 2007

Catalogue heaven

Bestof3 has pointed us to the Auckland Gallery’s terrific archive of their exhibition catalogues. It currently runs from 1954 to 1969. Among the publications you can download as pdfs is Marcel Duchamp: the Mary Sisler collection. The exhibition toured through New Zealand 40 years ago. Has a more important exhibition visited New Zealand? Recent American Art would be up there but it’s certainly hard to imagine the equivalent of either of these shows being mounted by a public art museum today. What would be a reasonable comparison? Say, a major survey of Bruce Nauman. Even in 1967 it must have been a huge effort to get such an incredible show here and even more (or less) so when you note that William S. Rubin, long-time curator of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, described Mary Sisler as “one of the strangest and most difficult women I have ever met.”

The Duchamp exhibition included Fountain which caused a great fuss in Christchurch when the director of the Robert McDougall Art Gallery, W S Baverstock, removed it from the show, and only permitted it to be seen by appointment in his office. At the opening Boyd Webb, who was a student at the time, snuck a ceramic po into the exhibition under one of the vitrines. Baverstock was incensed pushed it the length of the gallery and out the door with his foot. The day after the opening a long line of art students applied to see Fountain and, by rejoining the line, managed to keep up demand for around an hour before the Director’s secretary caught on.

Image: The Duchamp exhibition catalogue was designed by Hamish Keith