Gallery marks 21 years in city's heart

HANNAH MCKEE
Last updated 07:25 07/08/2014
City Gallery
KENT BLECHYNDEN/FAIRFAX NZ

DEDICATED STAFF: Phillip Robertson and Gerda Nana have been working at the City Gallery since it opened in the former library 21 year ago.

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Not everyone can say the mayor came to cut the cake at their 21st, but that's what will happen tonight at City Gallery Wellington, celebrating 21 years in its Civic Square building.

The building, formerly Wellington's public library, was converted into a gallery in 1993 by architect Stuart Gardyne.

The inaugural exhibition programme featured works by German artist Rosemarie Trockel - a piece of her artwork recently sold for US$5 million (NZ$5.9m) - and Te Whare Puanga, a vibrant combination of Maori and Pacific Island weaving.

But finding a permanent home was not all smooth sailing. Former gallery director Paula Savage, who helped to convert the Rotorua Bath House into the Rotorua Museum of Art and History, said she had to fight hard to secure the Civic Square building and was burdened by financial constraints.

"The gallery's former function as a public building was a bonus, its large rooms, high stud and generous natural lighting making it ideal for viewing art," she said.

"It offered twice the gallery space as the previous, Victoria St and Chews Lane locations."

Exhibitions manager Gerda Nana, who started with the gallery as technician in its temporary home in Chews Lane, said it was fantastic to work in a new, "beautiful" space.

"It was amazing having a big open space to exhibit the larger works. We were quite restricted with a mezzanine floor that couldn't take much weight at Chews Lane. We've dealt with lots of interesting things over the years. One of the more challenging shows was Prospect in 2007 when we had live sheep. There's never a dull moment working here."

Phillip Robertson, preparator at the gallery since 1993, said the Yayoi Kusama exhibition in 2009 was a highlight, but people are what has kept him coming back.

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- The Dominion Post

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