Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Not This Timeline

Back in 1967 the Robert McDougall Art Gallery in Christchurch hosted the Mary Sisler collection of Marcel Duchamp’s work. Later gifted to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, it was an extraordinary exhibition to appear at that time in New Zealand. It included many of Duchamp’s greatest readymades including Comb, In Advance of a Broken Arm, Bottle Rack, and Fountain. The latter work proved too much for the McDougall’s director W.S.Baverstock who sequestered it in his office for private viewing only. A long line of art students formed outside his door with everyone rejoining the line after their squiz. The game went on all afternoon. Boyd Webb, a sculpture student at the time, excelled himself by placing an old china po on one of the Duchamp display cabinets. Baverstock, in probably the only DADA gesture he ever made, put the offending object on the floor and with his feet pushed it through the galleries and out the door.

In 2002 Christchurch declined to commission Michael Parekowhai to install two large cartoon rabbits in Cathedral Square. The mayor at the time said that most people “considered the square the most formal part of the city”, a leap of the imagination only possible in Christchurch.

March 2007
Michael Parekowhai snuck an inflatable version of his ‘Square’ bunny Jim McMurtry into the Christchurch Art Gallery. You had to smile when you noticed that it was his bum that greeted the people of Christchurch as they entered the gallery.

October 2007 We posted that Christchurch’s Stewart Fountain, was being refurbished and a new sculpture was to be commissioned. Michael Parekowhai was invited to make a submission.

Late last year we talked with Michael Parekowhai about his idea for the Stewart Fountain Commission. The plan was to put the fact that the original Stewart fountain had been created in 1967 alongside the banishing of the Duchamp Fountain, also in 1967. Parekowhai proposed replacing the Stewart fountain (40 years on) with a replica of the Duchamp Fountain, created in bronze and painted white. It was historically rich, perfect for the over-crowded, small site, and funny.

Early in 2008 Michael Parekowhai heard for the second time that Christchurch did not want to go ahead with one of his public sculptures.

The people who made this decision were:
• Jenny Harper, director of the Christchurch Art Gallery
• Hugh Nicholson, Christchurch City Council planner
• Lara Strongman, ex-City Gallery curatorial manager
• Claudia Reid, Christchurch City Council
• Lady Stewart, patron
• Anthony Wright, director of the Canterbury Museum

You can check out what they went with here.

The probable cost of Christchurch getting a public sculpture by Michael Parekowhai on a third attempt? Priceless.

Image: Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain