WORDS Kim Newth PHOTOS John Collie

Change is in the air at Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū, as new director Blair Jackson signals an exciting line-up ahead for summer and into 2019. The show stopper of the summer will likely be a new work by Ron Mueck. This will be the last in a series of five ‘great works’ that the gallery has raised funds for over the past five years. “Christchurch has an enormous fondness for Mueck because of the big exhibition he had here between the September 2010 and February 2011 earthquakes; it was incredibly popular,” Blair says.

The new work is due to be unveiled late summer 2019. “It’s undeniably Mueck and it’s going to be beautiful.”

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With the five-work series completed, the gallery is now shifting its focus towards collaborating with artists on interesting and ambitious new projects to entrance and engage gallery visitors. Steve Carr’s Chasing the Light – a six-channel video installation immersing viewers in a night-time explosive display – is the first such project under Blair’s directorship.

“We’re looking towards supporting more collaborative work like this; the gallery is becoming more ambitious about helping artists making new work and, in turn, we are helping artists themselves to be more ambitious.”

The gallery’s inaugural Art Do event in October raised over $90,000 towards this end and in itself broke new ground with artists starring as DJs and new art-beer and art-wine collaborations launched on the night, (Greystone Wines X Judy Millar and Three Boys Brewery X Zina Swanson).

“It is an exciting and creative approach to fundraising. We do need to generate revenue if we want to be more ambitious and this is part of that.”

Attracting more people to the gallery is one of Blair’s key priorities. That means being relevant to many different audiences. This year’s Wall to Wall exhibition boldly did that by inviting people of all ages to paint their own masterpieces on the gallery’s walls.

“Visitors painting on walls is not something galleries generally do. It was hugely well-received by a really wide-ranging audience – we had an average of 650 people a day and 14,691 people in total.”

Expect more live music at the gallery too. Delaney Davidson performed in the foyer in November (Ship of Dreams). In May, the CSO will present an intriguing programme including works by Strauss, Haydn and SOUNZ Contemporary Award Winner, Chris Gendall (2019 Live Art).

Hidden Light, on exhibition from this month, features the work of early New Zealand photographers. Don’t miss their remarkable images of nineteenth-century Te Waipounamu.

Art drawn from the existing city collection and touring exhibitions continue to infuse gallery walls with inspiring work.

Summer highlights include a newly opened exhibition of works by Eileen Mayo, Nature, Art and Poetry and an exhibition of Gordon Walters’ major works, Gordon Walters: New Vision.

An exhibition of selected large works donated to the gallery by one of Christchurch’s most respected artists, Philip Trusttum, is another to look for this summer, Trusttum: Just a Glimpse.

Interestingly, it was seeing an exhibition of Trusttum’s work in 1982 that originally inspired Blair to pursue a career in the arts. “I was a high school student in Napier; I was interested in art and making art but had never previously encountered Philip’s paintings. Their sheer energy and excitement is what captivated me.”

In DetailJoshua Brosnahan