Friday, September 26, 2008

Constance Kirkcaldie 1917 - 2008

There are many different art worlds. Most of the time there isn’t much crossover or very much understanding among them. But sometimes there are people who can step across those borders, hardly noticing they are there. One of them was a whirling epi-centre of the Wellington art world of the Academy of Fine Arts, Constance Kirkcaldie. It was strange to hear stories at her memorial service that could have been told in any of the art worlds. “Neither my friends nor I had ever seen anything like it,” her stepson said of Constance’s art collection.

Constance Kirkcaldie was 91 when she died but she always behaved as though she were whatever age she had to be to get the best out of the situation. As director and administrator of the New Zealand Academy she made it possible for us in the seventies to see Jim Allen’s work in Wellington in the Five Sculptors exhibition and, on one memorable occasion, a group show including Tony Fomison. That’s still an image to reckon with: Tony Fomison showing at the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts.

She was funny and kind and generous in an art world that was often solemn, cautious and pinched. We never knew her as a young woman, or even a middle-aged one, but we did have the enjoyment of knowing her in her prime.