Thursday, June 24, 2010

Into the void

A number of exhibitions by Colin McCahon have been organised by public museums outside New Zealand and yet, as good as he is, McCahon has never made it into the global art story. Part of the reason is the lack of works for sale to these kinds of institutions. 

For McCahon to become part of the Big Story there had to have been significant works available so that a few key international museums could step up as investors and advocates. As it happens, during the 1980s and 1990s when there was serious interest in McCahon, such works were no longer available. Even the Stedelijk in Amsterdam which initiated the last big survey show has only one McCahon in its collection, and that only through the generosity of Jenny Gibbs. There are no works by McCahon in MoMA or the Tate. 

We were reminded of this by the catalogue for an exhibition from a few years back called 100 artists see God. (Co-curator Meg Cranston showed at Artspace in 2007). If McCahon had been better represented overseas there is no way you could have a show like that without him included. But as it is, he wasn’t.