Dunedin Public Art Gallery director Cam McCracken in the heart of the gallery collection yesterday. Photo by Linda Robertson.
The art to picking art was explained at the Dunedin Public
Art Gallery yesterday.
Playwright Roger Hall recently questioned the use of
exhibition space in the gallery when he returned to Dunedin
for the inaugural Writers and Readers Festival.
''What I saw mostly was blank wall space. For every painting
on display, there must be about 10 times the area of empty
walls,'' Mr Hall said.
''The public comes to see paintings, not wall space. They are
However, there was more to an exhibition than met the eye,
gallery director Cam McCracken said yesterday.
''There are more than 8000 pieces in the collection and we
might show, maybe 5%, of the collection in a year,'' he said.
''We're a community living room, basically. Some people are
lucky enough to live with art in their homes, but most people
aren't, and that's where we come in. We have a lot of
exhibition space to fill and we try for variety, as well. I
like to think that, if you came in a family group, there
would be something for everyone. Everybody would find a
corner that they'd enjoy.''
The most popular works in the gallery collection are La
Débâcle, by Claude Monet, Preparations for the Market,
Quimperlé, Brittany, by Stanhope Alexander Forbes, and Spes
or Hope, by Sir Edward Burne-Jones.
''We don't programme to a formula. We have the collection and
a kpi [key performance indicator] as a council facility to
dedicate a minimum of 40% of the gallery space to
exhibitions, on an annual basis.
''We will well and truly satisfy that this year.''
The gallery was on track to record its highest number of
''No matter what we do, we're going to get people who want to
see what they want to see. People develop a relationship with
the collection and some people think that their taste is what
everyone wants to see. But that's not the case,'' Mr
''You can't show any painting permanently, because the
condition would deteriorate, and we want to keep the
important works in the collection forever. So we need to know
how long something's been out and how much light it's been
exposed to and when to give it a rest.
''Oils are more robust, while works on paper are terribly
susceptible to deterioration, so we have to measure them very
carefully. You can only put about 50 lux on paper works,
which is not much. They're out for six months, maximum, and
then put back in storage for a 12 to 18-month period.''
The gallery also had a duty to broaden artistic horizons, he
''We're mindful that we want to introduce people to new work
and new ideas, which is why we commission a lot of new work.
We have a commitment to our local art community. We're also
interested in what's going on around New Zealand and bringing
that to Dunedin.
''We want to push people a bit, too. A programme that's
benign and gentle and doesn't ask questions ... that's not
what we want to do. If there wasn't a little bit of edginess,
we wouldn't be doing our job.''
The gallery always welcomed feedback on exhibitions, Mr
''We love to know what people think. For every comment we get
that's negative, we get 10 that are positive.''