Summer Holidays #4: Exploring Auckland Art Gallery

Auckland Art Gallery.pngAlthough I had gone to the Auckland Art Gallery specifically to see the Lindauer portraits it seemed rather a shame to leave without checking out some of the other exhibitions, so we didn’t. In this post I’ll be recording a few brief impressions of the other exhibitions we saw at the Gallery.

After our experience with modern sculpture at Brick Bay, we decided to largely eschew the modern art exhibitions and focus our attention on primarily on art from before the start of the 20th century. Fortunately, the Auckland Art Gallery is large and has numerous exhibitions to choose from. In the end we visited:

An Overture to the Text: We actually stumbled across this exhibition on our way to the Lindauer paintings and couldn’t resist stopping to check it out. It consisted of a series of illustrative sketches produced by Frederic Leighton for the original serialisation of George Eliot’s novel ‘Romola’ (which I haven’t read but, after seeing this exhibition, really want to). Set in Renaissance Florence, Romola is a Romantic morality tale about a young woman wed to an unfaithful and scheming man. A number of related works from the same period were also displayed.

Game Changers: International Modernism: My original tongue-in-cheek pitch for visiting this exhibition was something along the lines of ‘it might give us a better idea of who to blame for the sculptures.’ This was a small exhibition which did indeed do an excellent job of tracing, with a few example works from each of the major movements, the development of art through the 20th century, beginning with late Impressionism and moving through Expressionism to Abstraction and Total Abstraction. There were pieces I genuinely liked. There were pieces I genuinely disliked. In terms of blame, apparently in 1912 an Italian poet named Marinetti presented his ‘Futurist Manifesto’ in Paris, in which he claimed that all art would ultimately become abstract. So there’s that.

To All New Arrivals: This display of primarily contemporary New Zealand art was another exhibition which we saw in passing and decided to check out. My favourite work was a panoramic photograph of Dusky Sound in the South Island, made up of smaller (but still around 1m x 1.5m) photographs taken by Mark Adams over a series of days in the winter of 2014. The work is a tribute to one of the first European-style paintings made of New Zealand, William Hodges 1775-77 painting ‘Waterfall in Dusky Bay with a Maori Canoe’.

Grand Designs: This was our final stop, in a conscious effort to save the best for last. Grand Designs attempts to capture something of the art craze which swept many of the European upper classes during the Enlightenment, and pulled together an array of paintings dating primarily from the Renaissance and Baroque periods. Much as they would have been in the mansions of their original purchasers, the paintings were crammed together across walls painted and accessorised to look like the walls of a stately home. I was quite excited to recognise several names (Raeburn, Pieter Brueghel the Younger, Gainsborough) – clearly, all my hard work is paying off!

I think we did a good job of exposing ourselves to a range of art, although this is only part of what the gallery had to offer. What do you think? Would any of these exhibitions have interested you?


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