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WATERFRONT WAR: Herd St For Art Gallery

by Simon Vita

THE Herd St Post Office building could be transformed into a gallery showcasing NZ artworks and collections and ground floor retail and an apartment complex, says art curator Luit Bieringa.

Bieringa, a former director of the National Art Gallery, was responding to an approach made to him by lawyer Denis Foot and Green MP Sue Kedgley to assess the feasibility of turning the historic art deco building into a new national gallery.

"I think there is a formula that can be worked out that can make that a viable proposition -it is a great building."

Bieringa say financially and constitutionally setting up a national gallery is fraught with difficulties.

"I think the notion of setting up another institution after spending $300 million-plus [on Te Papa] seems to me to be not exactly what this country can bear at this time."

Bieringa helped set up the art collection now owned by Te Papa and in 1989 raised the idea of a National Art Gallery to house it.

While he says it is too late now to set up a national gallery, he sees the Herd St Post Office could have a role in presenting national art collections.

Te Papa has come under fire for the way it presents NZ visual arts, integrating them into a bigger narrative .

Bieringa says this isn't the best way to show off collections.

"There is a hankering for seeing one faithful old friends from time to time you in a context that is understood more readily than a storytelling framework which Te Papa is.

"People go to Auckland they want to see the Goldies or they come to Wellington they want to see the major collections of A, B, C or D which have become icons within those institutions.

"We also want to be able to see them in a cohesive perhaps slightly traditional way that's being denied by Te Papa because they tried something else. That's fine but it might not necessarily work in perpetuity.Ó

Te Papa spokesperson Paul Brewer had no comment to make on the proposal to set up a national gallery or to use the Herd St Post Office to display part of its arts collection.

(c) City Voice Newspaper

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