The Collector’s Room

Curators Roy Dunningham and Bronwynne Thorp
10 March – 28 May 2017, Hastings City Art Gallery

The Collector’s Room: Works from Collections of Hawke’s Bay, is currently showing in the Holt Gallery at the Hastings City Art Gallery. Curated by locals Roy Dunningham and Bronwynne Thorp, this exhibition reads like a ‘who’s who’ of some of the greatest artists NZ has produced both past and present, and seeks to convey to the viewing audience how the collector themselves becomes an integral part of the arts ecology.

All the big recognisable names are represented here and it is a complete privilege to view these works up close and personal. To see local artists Liz Maw and Wellesley Binding et al in the mix made me feel immensely proud and is a huge reminder of the calibre of art being produced right here at our back door.

I fell into and bathed in the colour of Gretchen Albrecht’s Winter Sunset, but it was the photographic works that sang out to me. Several appear to be constructed realities, but Ans Westra’s Washday at the Pa, was my hands down favourite. A moment in time frozen for me to see and feel and become part of. The barelegged, barefooted child sitting upon a chopping block surrounded by woodchips, clutching an armload of washing, seemed to be gazing down tenderly as if there was a babe in the bundle. I smelt the earth and the wood and could almost feel her presence in front of me. A very powerful image.

Paintings are prevalent here and they are magnificent. I do wish there were a few more sculptural works to see but I really am just being picky here!  The entire exhibition is beautifully and thoughtfully curated and shows us how collectors and artists are intrinsically connected far deeper and further than the original act of purchasing the work. Relationships are forged and the foresight of many collectors in recognising the potential and future success of these artists is abundantly apparent.

It isn’t any surprise to me that there are only seven pieces by women out of a total of 29 artworks and I suspect the curators had to look far and wide to find them. This is indicative of the lack of representation of women artists across the world throughout history, and sadly it is no different in NZ – but this is a discussion best left for another time – and it should not let the success of this show be diminished.

This exhibition is a must-see not only for art lovers but everyone. It is a fantastic tool for the education of our youth and children and I hope that schools and teachers grasp this opportunity to take their students along to view it. It is a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity to see these artworks before they disappear again and to get a glimpse into the worlds of their collectors.

PS: I was completely thrilled by the HCAG today. The exhibitions on offer are world class and the installation seen in the foyer by Asaki Kajima,  and the Paper Canoe – He Waka Pepa­, an interactive installation by children and visitors, stand alone as must-sees all by themselves. Marvellous! Kudos to the HCAG and their staff.

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