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Everything and the studio sink

Te Papa's art curators reveal new additions to the national collection


<P data-associrn="1457989"></P> <P>We art curators at Te Papa are passionate about art &#8211; and we actively develop our collection. We regularly meet to discuss proposed acquisitions, some purchased and some kindly donated. In each instance a strong case must be made for the work, bearing in mind current collection priorities. Acquisitions need to be of high quality and culturally significant, as befits a national museum. We want them to look as good &#8211; and as interesting &#8211; in 2115 as they did in 2015.</P> <P>Like the great majority of other large museums in the world, we cannot hope to display every work we acquire, however much we’d like to. So in this article, collectively authored by the curators, we share with you just some of the highly diverse art works we have acquired over the past 18 months. To see all our recent acquisitions, scroll down to the PDF at the bottom of the page. Enjoy!</P> <P><BR><STRONG>From fountains to sinks: A century of art making</STRONG></P> <P>A century after French artist Marcel Duchamp caused an uproar by displaying a urinal (which he renamed <EM>Fountain</EM>) as an art work in a New York exhibition, it’s still a surprise to be confronted by a grubby wall and a sink in an art museum &#8211; as visitors are when they encounter Fiona Connor's work <EM>Can do academy #3</EM>. Have they stumbled into a museum space they shouldn’t have? Is this exhibition still being installed? Is there an artist in residence?</P> <P>Fiona Connor is a contemporary New Zealand artist whose works involve the precise reconstruction of sites and objects originally located elsewhere and serving different purposes. Here, she has carefully re-created an art studio sink area, meticulously copying each accidental drip and splatter, mark for mark.&nbsp;&nbsp; </P> <P>What I love about this work is how it gets the viewer thinking about the physical process of art making. Although Connor worked from a particular site, she has created a scene that anybody can relate to &#8211; it could be taken from any artist’s studio, art school, or classroom. It’s as simple and banal &#8211; or as intellectually complex and beautiful &#8211; as the viewer wishes to make it.</P> <P><EM>Can do academy #3</EM> is currently on display in <EM>Ng&#257; Toi | Arts Te Papa</EM> as part of the exhibition <EM>Splash! Four contemporary New Zealand paintings</EM>.</P> <P><STRONG>Sarah Farrar</STRONG></P> <P>******</P> <P data-associrn="1464815"></P> <P><STRONG>Shadows of confusion</STRONG></P> <P>New Zealand photographer Andrew Beck’s enigmatic <EM>Silver window (Breaking the frame),</EM> 2014, is a photogram &#8211; an image made by laying objects on a sheet of photographic paper in a darkroom and briefly exposing it to light. The light on the paper renders it dark, and where it is blocked the shadows are left white.</P> <P>What is the object that made these shadows? At first sight it looks as if a large cube could have been placed on a sheet of photographic paper in the centre, throwing shadows according to where light sources were placed. But this doesn’t explain the square of graded tone in the centre and the many subtle complexities of the shadows. Beck seems to have constructed his image by a number of steps, creating a photograph that has no single physical source. Yet the process remains far from obvious.</P> <P>This photogram’s relationship between the two- and three-dimensional world is made more confusing by its very physical and tactile nature. It is screwed against a backing board at all four corners in a way that forces the photographic paper to bend and buckle. Numerous crinkles and creases are noticeable across parts of the paper as well, evidence of rough handling, and the paper is crudely trimmed top and bottom. It’s a work that has a physical presence in addition to being an image in some sense of real-world objects. Yet it also points to an indeterminate realm of nature by being simultaneously abstract.</P> <P><STRONG>Athol McCredie</STRONG></P> <P><BR>******</P> <P data-associrn="1464571"></P> <P><STRONG>A pioneering album</STRONG></P> <P>This print by Daniel Louis Mundy of Rotokakahi p&#257;, with a Te Kooti flag attached to a whare, or building, is one of many highlights in a 19th-century album that Te Papa has acquired. The album is a fascinating example of the kinds of photographs that were collected and compiled by unknown people in the 19th century. It shows how images of the South Island circulated during that era.</P> <P>Other images amongst the 75 albumen prints include a street scene by pioneering photographic firm the Burton Brothers, showing their own studio on the corner of Princes Street and Moray Place, Dunedin. Further Burton Brothers prints in the album mainly feature the Otago area in the 1870s. They mark the beginnings of the firm’s photographic expedition work, which documented many towns and scenic areas of the country in the following decade.</P> <P>The album also includes a museum display of a M&#257;ori carving and prints of early colonial homes in Christchurch and stations in rural Canterbury (probably by Wheeler and Son).</P> <P><BR><STRONG>Lissa Mitchell</STRONG></P> <P><BR>******</P> <P data-associrn="1424746"></P> <P><STRONG>Flattening, flipping, and layering</STRONG></P> <P>In Toss Woollaston’s enigmatic <EM>Portrait of Ivan Wells</EM>, the artist simplifies and flattens the face of a young boy, boldly outlining it in black Conté crayon to give it a mask-like appearance. He repeats the head three times, flipping it upside down and layering faces over each other to create a very peculiar sense of space.</P> <P>Painted around 1937, this work was one of the most striking and decisive steps toward modernism made in New Zealand at that time. Woollaston painted it at the high point of his early experiments with modernist painting, following his first solo exhibition in Dunedin in 1936. The faces probably show the influence of Carl Einstein’s book <EM>African Sculpture</EM> (1915), which Woollaston purchased in 1934 after reading about its wide influence on modern European artists.</P> <P>The painting depicts the young son of Woollaston’s friend Decimus Wells, a Mapua orchardist. Woollaston frequently used Wells’ family as models in the 1930s, and they were generally supportive of his work &#8211; although they evidently did not always like some of his more radical interpretations of the children. The young Colin McCahon, on the other hand, was deeply impressed by the assured modernism of this painting. McCahon acquired the work from Woollaston and kept it in his personal collection until his death, when it was given back to the Woollaston family.</P> <P>Despite its potential significance in the story of New Zealand modern art, this remarkable painting has remained almost completely unknown, and nothing has been published about it until now.</P> <P><STRONG>Chelsea Nichols</STRONG></P> <P><BR>******</P> <P data-associrn="1502151"></P> <P><STRONG>Picasso’s ceramics: Antiquity meets modernism</STRONG></P> <BLOCKQUOTE style="MARGIN-RIGHT: 0px" dir=ltr> <P>How ravishing to see colours sing after infernal fires have given them life … The bulls seemed ready to bellow.</P></BLOCKQUOTE> <P align=right><FONT size=2>Claude Ruiz-Picasso, Pablo Picasso’s son</FONT></P> <P>In <EM>Picador</EM>, Pablo Picasso depicts a bull charging across the body of a vase to confront a lancet on the handle. Paradoxically, only the lancet is visible, and not the picador, or bullfighter’s horseman. Is Picasso making the viewer the picador?</P> <P>The red silhouette on a black glaze owes much to the ancient Greek ‘red figure’ pottery technique. Here, however, Picasso shifts from the Greek mythology that inspired many of his works to the iconic if cruel Spanish spectacle he personally enjoyed so much.</P> <P><EM>Picador</EM> is an outcome of Pablo Picasso’s regular visits to the Madoura pottery in Vallauris, southern France, where he made ceramics in collaboration with the workshop. Te Papa’s jug is one of an edition of 500.</P> <P>For Picasso, working with clay was a great opportunity to discover its unique qualities and also explore a new type of surface for painting. Dominique Sassi, from the Madoura workshop, observed that ‘no matter how experimental he got, he always seemed to have a clear idea in his mind of the final result.’</P> <P><EM>Picador</EM> significantly contributes to our understanding of 20th-century ceramics and blurs the line between ‘fine’ and ‘decorative’ art. It also relates to Te Papa’s collection of Greek pottery, vividly showing how ideas drawn from the past can be connected to contemporary practice. Nobody rises to this challenge in a more exciting way than Picasso.</P> <P><STRONG>Justine Olsen</STRONG></P> <P><BR>******</P> <P data-associrn="1476642"></P> <P><STRONG>A subversive ‘floral-female’</STRONG></P> <P>Dorothy Kate Richmond’s <EM>Lady of the Lilies</EM> is no allegorical Madonna, virginity symbolised by pure-white lilies, but a modern woman, framed by cascades of vibrant orange blooms that offset the subject’s bluish-green blouse.</P> <P>The composition reflects a trend for ‘floral-female’ painting in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, in which women were presented as passive and decorative - a response to the feminist ‘New Woman’ movement. However, Richmond subverts this stereotype. She is the artist and possibly also subject of this painting.</P> <P>It was made in 1900, a year after she returned to England from New Zealand to study with atmospheric realist Norman Garstin at Newlyn. Richmond also spent time there with Constance Astley, an aristocratic Englishwoman with whom she developed an intense friendship. Connie, as she was known, is a likely subject for this portrait, although Richmond herself is also a possibility. Both shared the strong profile and serene nature that is so well captured in <EM>Lady of the Lilies</EM>.</P> <P>Richmond was a significant figure in the early 20th-century art scene of Wellington. Te Papa holds 13 works by her, most of which are watercolours from later in her career. This painting now stands as the earliest example, and the third oil, by Richmond in the collection. It demonstrates the influence of James Nairn and other impressionists, while also reminding us of the important international connections of many of New Zealand’s colonial artists at the time.</P> <P><STRONG>Rebecca Rice</STRONG></P> <P><BR>******</P> <P data-associrn="1507791"></P> <P><STRONG>Au revoir, classicism &#8211; bonjour, realism!</STRONG></P> <P><EM>La Brodeuse (The Embroiderer),</EM> a bronze statuette by Jules Dalou, has an art historical importance that belies its modest size (280mm high). Dalou ranks alongside his sometime friend, sometime nemesis Auguste Rodin as a sculptural giant of late-19th-century France. </P> <P>Coming from a working-class Parisian family, Dalou had to struggle to gain recognition. This finally came through the original life-size plaster version of <EM>The Embroiderer</EM>, a hit at the Salon of 1870. Critic Théophile Gautier loved ‘the straightforwardness of her features, the purity of her forms, a penetrating attractiveness.’ The contemporary subject matter of an unknown woman who could be every woman, focusing on her domestic tasks, was like a breath of fresh air in the art world. Our statuette is from a small edition cast by the Hébrard foundry shortly after Dalou’s death.</P> <P>Consistent with his social consciousness and love of his family, Dalou stipulated in his will that the proceeds should go to the Society of Orphans of Artists, one of whose beneficiaries was his handicapped daughter Georgette.</P> <P>Any fans of gallivanting nymphs and satyrs will be reassured that a matching statuette, of precisely that theme and by the same artist, is currently on display in <EM>Ng&#257; Toi </EM>| <EM>Arts Te Papa</EM>. In acquiring <EM>The Embroiderer</EM>, we now represent both stylistic faces of Jules Dalou: raunchy rococo and robust realism!</P> <P><STRONG>Mark Stocker</STRONG></P> <P><BR>******</P> <P data-associrn="1465862"></P> <P><STRONG>A weird and sinister dystopia</STRONG></P> <BLOCKQUOTE style="MARGIN-RIGHT: 0px" dir=ltr> <P>I think all my imagery comes from my subconscious … the dreams I have when I am awake …</P></BLOCKQUOTE> <P align=right><FONT size=2>Tracey Moffatt</FONT></P> <P>Commissioned by the Dia: Chelsea in New York City, Tracey Moffatt’s <EM>Up in the Sky</EM> photographs (1997) are an iconic body of work that launched the Australian artist’s career internationally.</P> <P>The 25 staged photographs read like stills from a fictitious film. The images are painterly and dreamlike, depicting a weird and slightly sinister <EM>Mad Max</EM> or <EM>Twin Peaks</EM> style of dystopia. They portray scenes and characters from an imagined outback Australian town and have multiple narratives, including an oblique reference to the ‘stolen generation’, which arose from an Australian government policy that forced the removal of ‘part white’ Aboriginal children from their families and put them into state care.&nbsp; </P> <P>In her work Moffatt refers to a diverse range of influences, from popular culture to high art, to investigate a mix of subjects related to gender, class, race, and colonialism. She states:</P> <BLOCKQUOTE style="MARGIN-RIGHT: 0px" dir=ltr> <P>I like to create my version of reality … things I have seen and experienced … Sources of inspiration come from everywhere, from the beautiful form and quality of 1960s Japanese cinema … But then I can look at trash TV … I also read a lot &#8211; everything from Charles Dickens and the Brontës to comic books.</P></BLOCKQUOTE> <P>The <EM>Up in the Sky</EM> series is Moffatt’s first representation in Te Papa’s art collection. To enable their acquisition, the artist generously gifted over half the photographs (13 of 25) to Te Papa.</P> <P><STRONG>Megan Tamati-Quennell</STRONG></P> <P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</P>
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Fiona Connor, Can do academy #3, 2014, sheet rock, plastic, ceramic sink, plumbing, timber and paint,
Purchased 2015.
Full object info is available on collections.tepapa.govt.nz

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Andrew Beck, Silver window (Breaking the frame), 2014, black and white photograph, gelatin silver print,
Purchased 2015.
Full object info is available on collections.tepapa.govt.nz

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Daniel Louis Mundy, Roto Kakahi. Interior of Native Pah. From the album: New Zealand album, circa 1870, photograph, albumen silver print
Full object info is available on collections.tepapa.govt.nz

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M.T. Woollaston, Portrait of Ivan Wells, circa 1937, oil and conte on canvas board,
Purchased 2014.
Full object info is available on collections.tepapa.govt.nz

Pablo Picasso, Picador, jug, 1952, ceramic with painted and glazed decoration, Gift of the Friends of Te Papa, 2015.

Pablo Picasso, Picador, jug, 1952, ceramic with painted and glazed decoration, Gift of the Friends of Te Papa, 2015. ,
Photograph courtesy of Sotheby’s. © Succession Picasso/Licensed by Viscopy, 2015

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Dorothy Kate Richmond, Lady of the Lillies, 1900, oil on canvas,
Purchased 2015.
Full object info is available on collections.tepapa.govt.nz

Aime-Jules Dalou, &lt;EM&gt;La Brodeuse (The Embroiderer)&lt;/EM&gt;, 1904-1905, Purchased 2015. Photograph courtesy Christie&#39;s.

Aime-Jules Dalou, La Brodeuse (The Embroiderer), 1904-1905, Purchased 2015. Photograph courtesy Christie's.

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Tracey Moffatt, Up in the sky #1, 1997, offset lithographic print,
Gift of Tracey Moffatt, 2015.
Full object info is available on collections.tepapa.govt.nz