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Cultural Memory: Whangerai Art Exhibition

Cultural Memory: A History Of The Whangarei Art Collection 1921 – 2008: 4 August – 28 September 2008

Whangarei Art Museum will be lavishing its walls with a ravishing array of heritage and modern works from the public art collection. From the foundational gifts of Capt Gilbert Mair, Thomas L. Drummond, Adele Younghusband and George Woolley in the first part of the 20th century to more recent acquisitions, gifts and bequests. This is an exhibition designed to provoke questions, challenges and responses.

We are also including some important historical paintings of Whangarei which include Entrance to the Whangarei River J. C. Hoyte, Private Collection, and Bird’s-eye View of the Whangarei Regatta 1887 by R.Highley Jr. from the Maritime Museum, Auckland. Both of which, along with a large body of Adele Younghusband paintings were offered to the city in the early 1990’s but were subsequently declined.

The exhibition will also track some of the stories of individual and institutional destruction and vandalism to the visual culture of Whangarei over a long period, carefully articulating these divided histories and contested stories from archive sources, public documents and minutes. Retelling the story of compelling momentum for a public art museum in Whangarei since 1921 in a timeline of events, from failed gallery projects in 1935 with the municipal library in Rust Avenue to 1982 and the Forum North development, right up to the present day including a history of the Hundertwasser project, from germination to reincarnation!

Throughout this, the collections history is inextricably bound up with the community debate for a public gallery, the generous gifts that were made by many over the last century to ensure a flagship for visual culture of the district was embedded.

Visitors to the art museum will be invited as they enter, to place beside their favourite artworks a ribbon, from 3 collection categories; heritage (19th-early 20thC) modernist (1920-45) and contemporary (1945-present) and if they choose to place their comments on the dedicated ‘post-it’ wall! Results will be published on the art museum’s community website ARTHYPE.

Viewers will see the artworks grouped in the manner with which they were acquired, rather than chronologically, period or genre. They will be able to view the step-by-step process in evaluating an artworks role within the collections policy of the museum, condition reporting, purchasing or deed of gift documenting and finally, accessioning into the Vernon Collections software. We will be recreating a ‘collection storage space’ installation of paintings and archives ephemera etc in situ, with explanatory texts on how to collect and store artwork.

This storytelling exhibition is designed to be an everyday guide to understanding the mysteries of museology. How a public art museum operates as an institution - but also how to use some of these skills to display and care for your own heirlooms and manic collections! Enabling visitors understand how to look at art - as if you were appraising a new acquaintance, and understand a little of the unique knowledge-base that is ‘the artworld’ without the ‘artspeak’ !

Museum visitors will be welcome to bring in their art for advice and appraisal (but NOT valuation) and how to source information. Pamphlets and advice for budding home-museum curators on how to collect and look after everything from photographs to old vinyl LP’s will be available. There will be a free appraisal day to be announced, with a panel of museum experts in art and artifacts for the public to bring their revered and perhaps slightly dubious ‘treasures’ for assessment over tea and biscuits !

Thought provoking and timely, Cultural Memory is perhaps more fundamentally an exhibition to prompt that age-old question: Whose collection is it - and who are its guardians for the future?

A colour catalogue and poster will support this exhibition and public programs such as the Art Live – appraisal day. (Date TBC)


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