Monday, December 16, 2013

Ticket to ride

For some time now the word's been that funding for exhibition making at the Auckland Art Gallery has all but dried up. News then on Friday that $1million had been pumped into the Gallery’s exhibition development fund must have come as a big relief. It's certainly a king hit for new director Rhana Devenport.

Reading the media release, however, you do get the feeling that this is money that will be spent offshore. Although Devenport herself gives NZ a mention calling the funding a chance to “present exceptional exhibitions of international and New Zealand art,” her boss, Regional Facilities Auckland Chief Executive Robert Domm, is not as inclusive. He pegged the money to enabling “the Gallery to foster long-term partnerships with leading museums worldwide." His examples? Three recent AAG international buy-ins: Degas to DalĂ­, Who Shot Rock & Roll, and California Design.

That makes the million bucks sound more like a international-travel-and-rent fund than one to research-and-curate around our own culture. This is of course in line with how other ticketing organizations in Regional Facilities operate. RF invests in them so they can comb the world for ‘profitable’ events. But putting on a blockbuster at the AAG is much trickier proposition than presenting a successful musical in a theatre (and that's tricky enough). 

The old days of guaranteed queues for the Impressionists or Picasso or Van Gogh are long gone and securing that sort of product is becoming increasingly difficult. Move into the contemporary and it doesn't get much easier. The hot ticket popular attractions like Christian Marclay's The Clock, Sun Yuan and Peng Yu’s Old People's Home and Olafur Eliasson’s The Weather Project are rare and the competition for them intense. Design and fashion projects can get audiences but the costs are high and there are other institutions in Auckland with a claim. The AAG is certainly going to earn every single dollar of that million.

Images: Top to bottom, Olafur Eliasson’s The Weather Project, Sun Yuan and Peng Yu’s Old People's Home and Christian Marclay's The Clock