Thursday, November 5, 2009

Opening the Vault

The billboards are up and the anticipation is high: Tonight is the opening of Neil Pardington’s fabulous photographic show, The Vault at Christchurch Art Gallery – a collection of 40 large-format photographs that give us a privileged peek behind the scenes at museums and art galleries around New Zealand. It’s a brilliant ‘expose’ of the behind-the-scenes artefacts and collections in storage.
He got the idea for the photographic series while he was working behind the scenes at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and it has been a work in progress ever since as he has explored the vaults, archives and basements of museums, art galleries, archives, banks, libraries and hospitals – “my focus is on places we store those things that are precious to us and conversely, those very similar spaces we store the obsolete and unwanted,” he has said of his work. Pardington’s photographs ‘expose storehouses of memory and places filled with mystifying treasure.’ They include my favourites, the stuffed animals and birds…all with cute little cardboard labels attached to their legs; paintings attached to sliding storage walls; specimens in jars; rooms filled with mannequins; shelves filled with rolls of film in tins; Maori artefacts; buildings filled with army vehicles; textiles, card catalogues and much more. It’s a scrumptiously voyeuristic peek into the normally unseen, off-limits world of the nation’s treasures and it will be on show at Christchurch Art Gallery until March 14, 2010. Top Image: Neil Pardington Land and Marine Mammal Store #5 Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa 2006. Lambda/C-print. Reeproduced courtesy of the artist & Christchurch Art Gallery. Bottom Image: Neil Pardington Taonga Maori Store #2, Whanganui Regional Museum 2006. Reproduced courtesy of the artist and Christchurch Art Gallery.

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