Michael Parekowhai, My Sister, My Self, 2006. Fibreglass, mild steel, wood and automotive paint. Edition of five. Collection of the Christchurch Art Gallery, purchased 2008. Courtesy of the artist and Michael Lett
Art works are spilling out of the Christchurch Art Gallery - greeting visitors as they approach the gallery; serenading as they come up from the underground car park; and dazzling as they make their way into the outer spaces of the gallery building itself.
This is all part ofOuter Spaces - a programme aiming to launch art from the familiar surrounds of the exhibition galleries and into unexpected spots.
“Some of this art will be impossible to miss. Some you’ll have to hunt out. Propelling all of it, though, is a belief that the most memorable art experiences are often those you don’t see coming - the unexpected hits of wonder and moments of pleasurable confusion.” says the Gallery’s Senior Curator Justin Paton.
Before visitors even set foot inside the gallery, their entry via the stairs to the forecourt or the elevator from the underground car park is to the accompaniment of Subsonic - a new programme of soundworks by different artists including currently featured Rosy Parlane, Rob Hood and John Nixon.
Coming soon is a new exterior billboard on the Worcester Boulevard featuring Richard Killeen’s dazzling digital imageThe Gathering. This truly eye-popping image will stop passers-by in their tracks as they absorb the layers of complexity that make up the work.
Once inside the Gallery’s foyer, it’s impossible to miss Bouncy Marae - a bouncy-castle wharenui created by Inez Crawford. Inspired by her childhood impression that her local marae was a fairytale castle, Crawford has created her very own wharenui - brown on the outside, pink on the inside - and (of importance to many) free for children to jump around in. Bouncy Marae moved into the Gallery’s foyer in time for Matariki
The commanding foyer stairs and surrounding glass barriers will soon resonate with United We Fall by Sara Hughes - a procession of politically charged colours inspired by the artist’s residency in the United States - during the time of the Democratic primaries. This will be the first of the Glasshouse series of commissions in and for the Gallery’s foyer.
And at the top of the grand staircase, the Gallery is displaying My Sister, My Self by Michael Parekowhai - only the second sculpture to occupy and enliven this position in the Gallery. My Sister, My Self is a dazzling balancing act by one of New Zealand’s renowned sculptural performers. It features a large and gleaming South Pacific seal balancing a stool and a bicycle wheel on its nose. Not just any stool and bicycle wheel however - but one of the most famous objects in modern art - Marcel Duchamp’s Bicycle Wheel, which he later attached to a stool and entitled readymade.
Justin Paton says there is no better place than the Christchurch Art Gallery for Parekowhai’s latest round with Duchamp. The New Zealand artist was born in the same year as the French artist died, and Parekowhai is renowned for his parodies and replies to the work of his French predecessor. In 1967 the Robert McDougall Art Gallery featured works by Duchamp - including a version of the Bicycle Wheel. However, two works from that collection were withheld from Christchurch art lovers, due to what Justin Paton describes as “an infamously prudish bit of censorship.”
“And now, 41 years later, the wheel rides back into Christchurch on the nose of a South Pacific circus animal. I like to imagine the unflappable Duchamp glancing down through clouds of cigarette smoke and murmuring his approval,” says Justin Paton.
Finally, the Gallery is staging Twinset - a range of brand new video art displayed on twin screens in the foyer. Twinset features a rapid-fire programme of fresh video from New Zealand and further afield from a video art genre which is no longer a specialised domain but a vast and various field of activity.
“Outer Spaces is a very exciting concept for the Christchurch Art Gallery,” says Director Jenny Harper. “The development of this programme underscores our belief that art can thrive in unconventional territory.”
Outer Spaces is already well underway and will feature many more new works over the coming months.