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Choosing Local Art For The Eyes Of The World

For immediate release
21 August 1999

From APEC Task Force

World leaders flock down under next month to attend the annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Ministerial and Leaders' meetings in Auckland, giving New Zealand an unprecedented chance to show off the best it has to offer.

APEC will bring 21 Leaders - including those from the United States of America, Japan and China - to the city. Although the meeting is centred around creating stability, security and prosperity for those in the APEC membership, its organisers are using it as an opportunity to promote New Zealand internationally and showcase its excellence and culture.

While chefs scout the country to find the finest cuisine and historic venues are spruced for the occasion, New Zealand art aficionados are gathering an eclectic collection of local artwork for display at APEC venues. Last year the Prime Minister, Rt. Hon Jenny Shipley, appointed an APEC Arts and Gifts Advisory Group to select a cross section of art for the occasion and commission gifts for key VIPs at the meeting.

Chaired by renowned arts patron Jenny Gibbs, the committee began its task by creating themes around each of the meeting venues. These themes had to complement both their surroundings and the purpose of their corresponding meetings.

"With such a vast array of artists to choose from, taking a thematic approach allowed us to narrow down our choices while adding some discipline to our selection process," says Ms Gibbs.

"Each venue has been allocated an overarching theme and the end result is that attendees are taken through a journey of New Zealand art during their stay."

The journey begins at Auckland's Carlton Hotel, where Leaders are officially welcomed to New Zealand with a traditional Maori powhiri. The local iwi (tribe), Ngati Whatua, will conduct the powhiri and has also loaned APEC organisers a stern post from its waka (canoe). Called a taurapa, the post is nine metres high and is a traditional Maori piece.

While being ushered towards the Carlton's ballroom for their first official meeting, Leaders will be surrounded by more contemporary Maori work, from the likes of Ralph Hotere and Peter Robinson. The ballroom itself takes on a Pacific theme.

"Covering the ballroom's expansive, barren walls is no easy task, and the Pacific theme provided the perfect solution," says Ms Gibbs.

"We have been able to cover the walls with large traditional tapa cloths, while also including modern pieces provided by artists such as Fatu Feu'u."

Those using smaller meeting rooms at the Carlton Hotel may spend a good length of time waiting, so photographs documenting New Zealand life and scenic beauty have been displayed around them to entertain and inform delegates. Photos range from old photographs of moko (Maori facial tattoos) to more contemporary themes.

The APEC Leaders' Dinner at the Auckland Town Hall on 12 September takes on a much more contemporary theme. The evening's entertainment and meal is designed to demonstrate a young, switched on, multicultural New Zealand, with artwork to match.

"The art at the Town Hall will be shown in the D-Bar, where Leaders meet before dinner. The aim here is to show a more funky, culturally diverse side to New Zealand. Three of the artists on show are young Asian New Zealand artists Luise Fong, Denise Kum and Yuk King Tan. Christchurch artist Bill Hammond's work will also reflect the slightly offbeat elements of the New Zealand art world."

The APEC Leaders' Retreat takes place at the Auckland Museum on 13 September. Like the Town Hall, the Museum is one of the city's more architecturally significant and historic buildings. The retreat takes place in an ornate but windowless room in the midst of the Museum, and Ms Gibbs says artwork has been selected as a substitute for a view of the outdoors.

"All the work in this room has to relate to the land. So we've selected some large Colin McCahon, Gretchen Albrecht and Toss Woollaston landscapes."

However, references to the land don't have to mean landscapes.

"Other work includes a Richard Killeen cutout. The cutout meets our specification, is colourful and easy to look at all day, making it perfect for the retreat."

When Leaders take a lunch break from the retreat, they will dine at the nearby Wintergarden Restaurant. Although small in size, the advisory group chose to use the restaurant to show off national art icons - such as Colin McCahon, Gordon Walters and Geoff Thornley.

All work provided to APEC New Zealand 99 has been kindly loaned by local galleries and private collectors with the consent of artists.

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