New object-based exhibition at Sarjeant on the Quay
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New object-based exhibition at Sarjeant on the Quay

Octavia Cook ‘Mosapien’ 2017. Photo Sam Hartnett, courtesy of the artist and Anna Miles Gallery part of the IN THE HAND group show

One of the most common questions gallery curators get asked has to be what do you do in a day?

In this busy role, the range of tasks is what makes it such an enjoyable job.
Our recently opened In the Hand exhibition is now on display in our object-based gallery above the i-SITE, across the road from Sarjeant on the Quay.

This exhibition features a selection of works on a small scale, made by a diverse set of practitioners based around the country including works by Madeleine Child, Octavia Cook, Tessa Laird, Lauren Lysaght, Robert McLeod, Richard Parker, Martin Poppelwell and Joe Sheehan.

An exhibition of this type has a number of logistical challenges. After settling on the initial concept for the show, the next step is to find artworks that fit the brief. In this case, we were looking for works that were made by hand, and on an intimate scale to give the show an intriguing sense of intricacy and discovery.

A vast number of artists make works on a small scale, so the initial list of possible works to include was equally long. When making our selections we aim to represent a balance of makers – both male and female, at different points in their careers and whose concepts are as varied as the different techniques they employ.

The Sarjeant strives to programme exhibitions that display the breadth of our wonderful collection. We also ensure our schedule is balanced with artworks from outside Whanganui, which includes exhibitions toured from other galleries around the country and our own exhibitions curated from loaned works we don’t hold in the collection.

In the Hand features both collection works and loaned objects, making it a very diverse offering. The loans in this show have either come from artists themselves or their dealer galleries based in Wellington, Auckland and Dunedin. Borrowing the works involved liaising with both artists and dealers, producing loan documentation and organising packing, freight or collection of the artworks.

The collection component of this show is a selection of works from the Rick Rudd Box Collection. Included are very small ceramic works by artists Bronwynne Cornish, Rosemary McClay and Ted Dutch, among others. The collection of over 200 ceramic boxes was acquired by the Sarjeant Gallery in 1999, offered as generous gift and part purchase by Rick Rudd, himself a respected ceramic artist, who established Quartz Museum of Studio Ceramics at 8 Bates Street, Whanganui.

Before installation can begin, we research into the artworks and artists. This informs our writing for the interpretive wall text, helping to give the exhibition conceptual cohesion. Once that is sent off to print we can go about the enjoyable business of deciding on the show’s layout and installing the works, which can take anywhere from two days to two weeks depending on the complexity and size of the artworks.

It was important to the show’s concept that In the Hand felt warm and inviting. To help achieve this we chose a warm colour palette for the wall colour and exhibition signage, which was beautifully typeset by local designer Joseph Salmon. Individual art work labels are the finishing touch to an exhibition, which include information about the artist, title, year of production and materials.

by Jessica Kidd Assistant Curator

This story was first published in the Wanganui Chronicle on 28 August, 2018

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