Wednesday, October 15, 2008

It’s a small world after all

Te Papa has responded to our suggestion, as reported in the Sunday Star Times, that, “Te Papa no longer collects or shows much concern for international art.” In its latest newsletter Te Papa claims:

“Although our priority is to collect historical and contemporary New Zealand, Maori and Pacific art, our acquisitions policy does provide for the acquisition of 'international' art.”

And goes on to state:

“During the past three years we have added important historical and contemporary Australian and modern British examples to our collections.“

So we looked back at Te Papa’s annual reports over the last three years in which it records all its art purchases. We found that its international purchases were:

2003-2004 - three English prints.
2004-2005 – 18 British prints (pre 1850), one painting (Australian contemporary by Rosalie Gascoigne)
2005-2006 - three donated British paintings (pre 1800), one British print (pre 1800)
2006-2007 - one painting (by Frances Hodgkins)

The newsletter goes on to comment:

“The claim was made during a week when our Curator of European Art, Victoria Robson, was in the United Kingdom assessing a painting by a modern British artist that we were very interested in acquiring.”

The artist Victoria Robson was chasing up in the United Kingdom was Cedric Morris. The Oxford University Press’s Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Art describes Morris, best known for his paintings of flowers, as ”fairly well known and successful between the wars…. After about 1940, however, he sank from fashionable consciousness, although he remained an admired figure in East Anglia.”

Cedric Morris is world famous in New Zealand for being a friend of Frances Hodgkins (see 2006-2007 purchase above) His portrait of her is in the Auckland Art Gallery’s collection.