What is art?
A picture may be worth a thousand words but a photo of a sheep carcass left councillors momentarily speechless this week.
Simon Rees, the new director of the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery was talking to the monitoring committee about nine artworks the gallery wants to buy for its collection.
In the agenda was a photo of the digital print Carcass, by Taranaki photographer Peter Peryer.
The photo shows what appears to be a skinned sheep carcass hanging from its legs, with a cut down the animal's chest.
Councillor Colin Johnston challenged Rees on the content of the artwork.
"I like art, and I like some of these pictures as well . . . but I can't see the point in the carcass one, and I see it costs $2608," Johnson said.
Councillors around the table squirmed at the mention of the photo of the bloodied sheep carcass, and nodded in agreement with Johnson's concerns.
Their worries were soon dead on the table though.
"It looks for all intents and purposes like carcass in a butcher's shop," Rees said.
"But it is actually a photo of a Hollywood film set, from a film which was in production in Eltham.
"It is made of fibreglass. It's a little bit of humour in that photograph," he said.
The film Rees spoke of is Predicament, which was shot in South Taranaki in 2009 and was was based on the book of the same name by Hawera-born writer Ronald Hugh Morrieson.
Peryer photographed the prosthetic dummy from the film set by the butcher's shop window. Peryer, who lives in New Plymouth, is one of New Zealand's most celebrated and internationally recognised photographers.
In 2008 Govett-Brewster spent $4500 on a Peryer photograph of a stuffed European hare.
Rees said the new prints would tie in with the Peryer works Govett-Brewster already had in its collection, including the hare, and enable a cohesive exhibition in the future.
After Rees silenced the councillor's bleats councillor Murray Chong questioned what percentage of the new nine art works were actually from Taranaki.
Rees said most of the $47,428 cost for the works would be spent on Taranaki art.
"I tried to put together as many Taranaki stories as I could for my first set of acquisitions," Rees said.
"Terry Urbahn's work, the largest acquisition at $21,000, is about the White Hart Hotel, which many of you will know."
Johnston also questioned Rees on whether the new works would be on permanent display in the gallery when it reopened next year.
Rees, who began his role with the gallery in February said they would not be on permanent display but would become a part of the gallery's collection, which had been amassed over 42 years.
"When we reopen, and for the first time in Govett-Brewster history, we are going to have a gallery dedicated to the collection," he said.
"It will be the first gallery you walk into in the building, and it will be open 364 days of the year, so there is a high chance that these works will be in a much higher rotation."
An online gallery would also be launched next year to allow more people access to the collection, he said.
The monitoring committee has recommended to the full council that it move ahead with the approval of the acquisitions.
The matter will be discussed at the next full council meeting on June 17.
- Taranaki Daily News
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