Efforts under way to record artworks

The exterior of 1 Vogel St, former home of the Pavlova Backpackers. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
The exterior of 1 Vogel St, former home of the Pavlova Backpackers. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
A piece of Dunedin’s underground art history is set to be lost forever, with a last-ditch effort under way to preserve a pair of nearly 30-year-old murals before they are gone.

The murals in the stairwells of 1 Vogel St were painted in 1992 during the building’s past life as a backpackers, and had inspired further artistic endeavours across the walls of apartments within the building over the years.

Now the building is undergoing renovations and the current tenants have been served eviction papers.

Resident Abby Fleur said one section of the stairwell in the lobby had already been painted, and she and her fellow tenants wanted to digitally capture the remaining murals before they were painted over.

‘‘What we really want to do is preserve it, photograph it really well to create images that can be sold and preserve the art for the artists and the community and give royalties back to the artists.’’

Soon-to-be-evicted tenants Abby Fleur and Reamonn Thomson-Dudding stand in the freshly painted...
Soon-to-be-evicted tenants Abby Fleur and Reamonn Thomson-Dudding stand in the freshly painted lobby of 1 Vogel St. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Resident Reamonn Thomson-Dudding said they were planning to crowdsource funding for the preservation effort, and would look at ways to share the art, such as publishing a book featuring the murals.

The tenants had until December 1 to leave, and Ms Fleur said the owners had been respectful in their dealings with them.

The building had been a community house for about eight years, and she had lived there for the past two and a-half years.

Rooms had been rented to many artists over the years, but it was getting harder for artists to find rental properties that could also be used as creative studio space as former arts precincts were gentrified.

There was a need for an arts hub in the city to preserve grassroots and underground artists in the current housing market, she said.

‘‘It’s embarrassing that Dunedin as an arts and music small city does not have a public arts hub where you can walk in and find humming culture and resources to create, all there in the same space.’’

Building owner Jono Aldridge said he had taken possession of the building in December 2020.

He was ‘‘more than happy’’ for the murals to be recorded and documented, and he wished the tenants had raised it with him earlier before stairwell painting begun.

‘‘I would have been more than happy to stall this work or talk through other options.’’

He said he was passionate about the warehouse precinct and wanted to help revitalise the area by making better use of the buildings.

The building at the intersection of Vogel St and Queens Gardens. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
The building at the intersection of Vogel St and Queens Gardens. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Meanwhile, the creator of the artworks said murals were often impermanent in nature.

Whangarei artist Steve Pike said he had painted the stairwell mural when the property was part of the Pavlova Backpackers chain.

He had been sketching while staying in one of the hostels in the early ’90s, and was spotted by the owner.

An invitation to create a mural in the Christchurch hostel followed, which was so popular that commissions to create murals in all the chain’s backpackers followed.

He said he had experienced having his murals painted over for 30 years.

‘‘You are lucky to get 10 years out of a mural, and I did get a little bit disheartened about that ... that’s why I moved on to canvas painting.’’

He was pleased to hear of the tenants moves to digitally capture his art for posterity.

andrew.marshall@odt.co.nz

 

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