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ARTSPACE Looks Back

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At this point in time after a quarter of a century, I think ARTSPACE urgently needs to physically shift and transform itself into a new sort of institution, with a higher profile, bigger staff, more room and shiftable, paintable, soundproof walls that can create fresh architectural experiences for each show. The Auckland contemporary art community is being short changed with things as they are.

Auckland

 

ARTSPACE staff

Every cloud has a silver lining

 

16 March - 5 April 2012

In this show ARTSPACE is looking back at its own history, 25 years since its inaugural exhibition in Federal St in 1987, a year or so after its prime movers Wystan Curnow, Mary-Louise Browne and a bunch of influential supportive friends, managed to persuade ACC that such an experimental venue was a good and much needed idea. Since then there have been four venues, eight directors and hundreds of shows.

The 25th anniversary has been a much more intelligent affair than the 20th, which didn’t look back at the past at all. Current Director Caterina Riva has organised a successful series of forums that examined key stages in the institution’s history, yet I think much of the story could have been told more effectively in the K’ Rd space with a time line painted on one wall, a series of videoed interviews with past directors still living in Aotearoa or Australia on the floor, and archival paper material pinned on the other walls.

Instead within the main square-shaped gallery this show presents elegant concrete, plywood, and glass screens that replicate the position of the original walls found in the ARTSPACE premises before it was made ‘artworthy’. These are used with sellotape to show documentation in the form of clippings, invites, catalogues, posters and fliers so you look past them (through them) into the institutional space itself. It’s admittedly a thoughtful and clever design. In a small adjacent room a projector shows slides of various key exhibitions from over the years.

Yellowing cuttings of readable information alone don’t often make an interesting visual display for visitors. The show is pretty dry if you don’t know the personalities, though it rewards your sifting through the newspaper articles. Other nattily designed pamphlets draw you in and the back of the (often crookedly aligned) cuttings tell you a lot historically about the newspapers at the time and their readers. And there are some nice Daniel Malone ‘remembered-David Tremlett’ pastel wall drawings that reference the freestanding walls lovingly built by Blaine Western and Henry Babbage.

So what lies ahead? At this current point in time after a quarter of a century, I think ARTSPACE urgently needs to physically shift and transform itself into a new sort of institution, with a higher profile, bigger staff, more room and lots of shiftable, paintable, soundproof walls that can create fresh architectural experiences for each show. The Auckland contemporary art community is being short changed with things as they are, for the inner city area needs a substantial venue where only contemporary art is displayed. Auckland Art Gallery with its various public collections is providing a great service for a mixed range of audiences interested in many periods, but ARTSPACE should step up in a more ambitious manner and focus on current art experiences alone and their activities.

John Hurrell

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This Discussion has 2 comments.

Comment

Arron Santry, 2:15 p.m. 5 April, 2012

Hi John, a couple of clarifications:
The artist referenced in the Daniel Malone drawings is David Tremlett (no 'b'). And the structures designed and built by Blaine and Henry were designed to reference architectural features of the previous Artspace buildings on Federal St (with its prominent windows) and Quay St (with its columns), rather than the current Artspace building.

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John Hurrell, 4:44 p.m. 5 April, 2012

Thanks Arron for correcting my dumb typo. And good to know that Blaine and Henry's structures reference the Federal and Quay St spaces. Is that stated anywhere or is it anticipated artists and regular visitors will recognise the connection, having good memories. And what of Daniel's 'Tremlett' drawings (actually I'll correct the text, it's too embarrassing to leave it)? Do they reference K'Rd?

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