A life-sized exhibition

Monash University Museum of Art Director Charlotte Day says New Zealand-born artist Francis...
Charlotte Day says New Zealand-born artist Francis Upritchard has accomplished rare feats in carving out for herself a distinctive style and a significant international career. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
Tourist, by Francis Upritchard.
Tourist, by Francis Upritchard.
Jockey, by Francis Upritchard.
Jockey, by Francis Upritchard.
Taker, by Francis Upritchard.
Taker, by Francis Upritchard.

Beyond art circles, not many Kiwis have heard of Francis Upritchard, despite her sustained and flourishing international career.

Bruce Munro asks Monash University Museum of Art director Charlotte Day about the New Zealand-born artist and the survey exhibition of her work that opens in Dunedin today.

New Zealand-born artist Francis Upritchard. Photo: supplied
New Zealand-born artist Francis Upritchard. Photo: supplied

Q How did this exhibition come about?

I’ve known and followed Francis’ work since the late 1990s, as has co-curator Robert Leonard [chief curator, City Gallery, Wellington]. Robert and I have worked together a number of times and were keen to collaborate again.

It came up in conversation, how we would both like to work with Francis, and felt the timing was right to present a survey exhibition of her practice.

The exhibition isn’t exhaustive. Francis is a prolific maker so that would be near impossible to achieve - but someone should one day.

What we wanted to do was look at how her practice has evolved over 15 years or more and how New Zealand might remain an important influence on her work even though she has been based in the United Kingdom for many years now.

Q When did you first come across Upritchard’s work?

The work was her family cat, taxidermied. This is an early work, but one that I haven’t forgotten as it’s quite personal, obviously, but also relates to works that followed. You will need to come see the exhibition to work out the connections.

Q Why were these pieces chosen for inclusion?

We chose works from across the period she has been making art. Francis was very keen to include early works produced while still at art school. The exhibition includes many key works that she has been acclaimed for and are in significant collections here and abroad, as well as a number of very recent works. The exhibition traces concerns that may remain constant in her practice: her interest in museums, cultural appropriation and fictions as well as her more recent focus on making figurative sculpture.

Q What is Upritchard’s significance in the art world?

I cannot speak for the New Zealand art world, but I am sure that there are some parallels with the situation for artists in Australia. It’s not easy to achieve an international art career as a New Zealander or Australian artist but Francis has achieved one in a most significant way: she has an extraordinary exhibition history and her works are widely collected. At the same time, her works retain a strong connectivity to the New Zealand context.

Q Why should people view this exhibition?

Francis’ practice is idiosyncratic and it’s not like any other artist’s work. Imagine how difficult that is to achieve in the age of Google. It’s so rich in references and associations but never heavy or weighed down by them, rather through her works Francis opens up our view of the world and our humanity. Her work is funny, cheeky, insightful, poetic and so much more, all at once.


Francis Upritchard

• Born in New Plymouth, in 1976

• Graduate of Ilam School of Fine Arts, Christchurch

• Has been based in London for almost 20 years, but regularly returns to New Zealand

• In 2003, was shortlisted for the Beck’s Futures prize

• In 2006, won the Walters PrizeIn 2009, represented New Zealand at the Venice Biennale

• Major museum solo shows have included the Nottingham Contemporary in 2012, Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Centre in 2012, Marugame Genichiro-Inokuma Museum of Contemporary Art in 2013, Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin, in 2013, and Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, in 2014

• She is one of New Zealand’s most successful overseas artists

• Francis Upritchard: Jealous Saboteurs is the first major survey exhibition of her work


The exhibition

 Francis Upritchard: Jealous Saboteurs, Dunedin Public Art Gallery, The Octagon, Dunedin, opens today.

• Charlotte Day is giving a free, public, exhibition floor talk on Saturday at 11am.


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