Monday, October 29, 2012

Old school

A couple of years ago, almost to the day, Te Papa stripped out its contemporary art galleries and filled them with Brian Brake photographs. At the time we predicted that this would herald an end to those half-hearted guarantees by Te Papa that they would always having contemporary art on view. How did we do with that prediction? 

Regrettably, just great. For 100 days from 20 October the contemporary art space has now been given over to the gold-frame show Angels and aristocrats. This leaves the most recent piece of art in the fifth floor galleries to be one dated 1978 which is one year older than this year's winner of the Walters Prize. It’s The scarred couch, the Auckland experience by Phil Clairmont rather thrillingly described by Te Papa “like a wounded beast, the massive body of the couch convulses…” – c’mon guys, it’s a piece of furniture 
OK, there is Shane Cotton's painting Whakakitenga kit e kenehi hanging in the entry foyer to the fifth floor that is only 14 years old, but as to sculpture or installations or large scale photography, or video or performance? Nada. There you go then. Not a single work on display from the first 12 years of the 21st century.
So here's the question. Do we really need a shiny new silver National Art Gallery for Te Papa to programme? Based on their inability to maintain a sustained interest in contemporary art the answer to that would have to be… um… no.
Image: modern art at Te Papa