It’s all happening! The fabulous opening of the new Auckland Art Gallery, Rotorua Museum’s beautiful extension, Whangarei Art Museum – and rugby events everywhere.
Auckland celebrated magnificently for the re-opening of the Auckland Art Gallery. There were various events, not-too-long speeches, much partying and lots of thank-yous, as well as rousing haka, thrilling waiata and a real live fanfare. Now we really do have an art museum that is the equal of those in major overseas cities. A whole lot more of Auckland’s seriously good collection is on show, alongside the Robertson ‘Promised Gift’ of international masters, and some beautiful and inspiring new commissions. The curatorial team have made the most of their ‘time out’ to thoughtfully recontextualise collection favourites and bring forgotten gems to light. Of course it will be there for many years to come, but do go as soon as you can.
In Rotorua, I am told that a moving dawn ceremony was followed by a celebration which was suitably memorable – I regret that I could not be in both places at the same time. However, I was delighted to go to Rotorua the following week, and see the superbly finished Don Stafford Wing, perfectly matching the orignial 100+ year old Bath House. Inside, school groups and other visitors were totally engaged with the excellent new exhibits. And Pukaki – the ‘face’ of our 20 cent coin – has a fitting resting place at the entrance to the new galleries, which feature some magnificanet Te Arawa taonga from Auckland Museum as well as Rotorua’s own collection. Another essential visit for museum people.
There has been plenty of acrimony over several years and a new flurry of protest in recent months as the Ashburton District Council debated whether or not to go ahead with plans for a new museum/art gallery/archive building. It’s great to see that the council has finally agreed to accept a $6.6 million tender and push ahead with it. Now there is only a building consent yet to be approved. I do like the way the local paper reports every ‘he said, she said’ of the council debate – that way everyone knows who is on which side, and who is yet to be won over!
Diversity Award for Pataka
In other news, Pataka Museum of Arts and Cultures has been recognised by the Human Rights Commission for its outstanding contribution to community-building and inclusiveness. As HRC noted for Pataka’s Diversity Award, it “has become the cultural heart of Porirua City. In the 12 years since it opened Pataka has developed a reputation for showcasing the best in Maori, Pacific Island, New Zealand, Asian and other diverse international contemporary art & culture”. See reports fromt he Diversity Awards and the Hamilton forum in August here.
Ethics of disposal
Those who were at MA11 in Nelson will recall a lively discussion of the ethics of disposal, which included the case of New Zealand-related objects fromthe British Empire & Commonwealth Museum in Bristol, UK, appearing on the open market with no provenance. Another chapter in this saga has been published by The Art Newspaper. The article ‘Rise and fall of the British Empire Museum’ (3 Sep 2011) can be found here under the tag museums.
Official Information Act
In other news, the New Zealand media are again looking into losses and thefts of museum objects, especially the emotive topic of medals. The recent arrest of an ex-NZ Army Museum staffer for stealing hundreds of medals shocked and surprised many, and has spurred some awkward Official Information Act (OIA) requests from the media. One thing to note is that the OIA applies to government departments and to local government – but our advice is that organisations and collections which are governed by trusts are not covered. This means that local government funded museums and galleries may be subject to the OIA for organisational matters, but collections that are the repsonsibility of a separate trust are not. So if you are approached by journalists or others seeking information under the OIA, you may not be legally obliged to provide it – although you may decide to do so anyway in the public interest.
And elsewhere around the country, it’s hard to avoid mention of rugby. Seemingly every museum and gallery has managed to relate current exhibitions and programmes to rugby in some way. And a timely release this week of a Quarterly Focus report on visitor satisfaction by Tourism Research makes explicit correlation between visitor satisfaction, repeat visitation, and willingness to recommend – word of mouth being a hugely important factor in marketing the country as a destination as well as specific activities such as exhibitions and events. I hope all our RWC 2011 visitors are extremely satisfied with their experiences in museums and galleriesaround the country.
I wish you a busy and productive time while the country is consumed by rugby!