Prestigious British artist Bridget Riley to create new artwork for Chch Art Gallery

A Sotheby's employee stands in front of Bridget Riley's 'Image I Revised White' painting in 2013.
DAN KITWOOD

A Sotheby's employee stands in front of Bridget Riley's 'Image I Revised White' painting in 2013.

Prestigious British artist Bridget Riley will create a large new artwork for the Christchurch Art Gallery in a rare public commission for the celebrated painter.

The purchase was funded by donations from about a dozen female philanthropists as part of the gallery's fundraising initiative to buy five major artworks for the public collection.

Riley first emerged on the British arts scene in the 1960s with striking black and white paintings that often used geometric patterns to induce optical effects. She has experimented with abstraction over a career that spans nearly six decades, with her works held by major art collections around the world. Over the last 10 years, Riley paintings have sold for as much as $7 million.

A visitor poses with artist Bridget Riley's artwork "Dauphin" at a London exhibition in 2014.
LUKE MACGREGOR

A visitor poses with artist Bridget Riley's artwork "Dauphin" at a London exhibition in 2014.

Christchurch Art Gallery director Jenny Harper said it was an "amazing coup" to secure a major public commission by Riley. She would not disclose the purchase price. 

"People are amazed that she is doing something for us. She has been watching and is very conscious of what we have gone through in the five years of being closed and how we have made work available in the city in different ways and she is full of admiration for how the gallery has pulled through.

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Bridget Riley's artwork "Reflection" on display in London in 2011.
LUKE MACGREGOR

Bridget Riley's artwork "Reflection" on display in London in 2011.

"I don't think she does many commissions. She paints the way she wants to. I think this is quite unusual for her."

The artwork will be painted on a wall inside the gallery in May by assistants employed and instructed by Riley, who is not coming to New Zealand for the commission.

To celebrate the new artwork, a small exhibition of paintings by Riley will be held at the gallery.

The Bull, aka Chapman's Homer by Michael Parekowhai, as it looked outside the Christchurch Arts Centre in 2013. The ...
DEAN KOZANIC/FAIRFAX NZ

The Bull, aka Chapman's Homer by Michael Parekowhai, as it looked outside the Christchurch Arts Centre in 2013. The sculpture is now in the gallery's atrium.

"We are borrowing a small group of works, some from Riley's private collection, to introduce the artist to Christchurch," Harper said.

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An image of the artwork will be revealed at a fundraising dinner in October, along with a statement by the artist.

Riley's painting will be the fourth piece purchased through the gallery's foundation with donated funds as part of its drive to buy five major artworks for the public collection.

Bill Culbert's Bebop artwork was purchased by the gallery with donated funds and installed above the stairs in the ...
SUPPLIED

Bill Culbert's Bebop artwork was purchased by the gallery with donated funds and installed above the stairs in the building's atrium.

The first artwork purchased was Michael Parekowhai's large bronze sculpture of a bull on a piano, Chapman's Homer, which was bought with donations and a crowdfunding campaign in 2013.

The second was Bebop by New Zealand artist Bill Culbert in 2014, which is suspended above the marble staircase in the gallery, and the third was British artist Martin Creed's EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE ALRIGHT neon artwork on the outside of the gallery building.

The gallery's foundation is fundraising to create a $5m endowment fund to help purchase artworks.

'EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE ALRIGHT' by British artist Martin Creed was installed on the gallery's Worcester Blvd facade.
SUPPLIED

'EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE ALRIGHT' by British artist Martin Creed was installed on the gallery's Worcester Blvd facade.

Harper said the fundraising drive was sparked by changes in Christchurch City Council funding and public enthusiasm for purchasing the Parekowhai bull sculpture.

The council cut the gallery's art buying fund from $250,000 a year to $80,000.

"The basic core funding was removed, apart from $80,000 to help support the creative community here and ensure we could buy works related to the earthquake," Harper said.

"We got this idea that we would develop a five year plan and raise $5m for an endowment fund to act as a buffer for the future of the collection and to distance us a little from the politics of the decisions."

Christchurch art expert Warren Feeney said Riley was "a major figure in British art".

"She is hugely respected and admired. Her work has changed and evolved over the last 20 years."

 - Stuff

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