Clock ticking on popular exhibition, don’t miss out

Time seems to fly by incredibly quickly and it’s hard to believe our very popular exhibition ‘Out of the Box’ closes in two weeks’ time. If you haven’t yet been in to see it, or want a last look around, then you need to be quick as the exhibition finishes on 5 June.

This gallery, featuring approximately ten percent of our framed artworks, is a complete floor to ceiling hang. Breaking away from chronological order, this display allows new interactions between artworks; for example showing 19th century paintings next to contemporary works, which enables the viewer to see differences and make connections that might otherwise go unnoticed. It also shows the rich diversity of the region’s collection, while bringing to our attention some gaps that we’ll try to fill over time.

Feedback on this gallery from the public has been overwhelmingly positive and it’s proven to be one of our more popular recent displays. Much like the 2008 exhibition ‘Open Home,’ which was equally popular, it provided an opportunity to put more on display than usual and create a particularly rich art experience. There’s sure to be at least one artwork in this gallery to appeal to each person’s taste.

Replacing this exhibition in June, is a touring show from Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki titled ‘Freedom and Structure: Cubism and New Zealand Art 1930-1960’. This exhibition looks at New Zealand’s response to the revolutionary new cubist style – which is possibly not a well-known period in our national art identity.

Cubism as an artistic style emerged in the early 20th century, with Pablo Picasso often cited as the creator – but more accurately developed in conjunction with French artist Georges Braque. Challenging representational style, this new form experimented with showing objects from multiple perspectives all at the same time. Braque and Picasso emphasised the flat surface of the picture canvas, rather than giving the illusion of depth. They reduced complex forms to basic geometric shapes. Early in the cubism period, the original subject matter could still be determined, but as the style developed, works were fragmented further into pure shapes, lines and planes without any reference to the physical world.

New Zealand was slow to adopt this radical shift in European art. Our isolation meant new developments were slow to reach our shores and, at that time, we continued leaning towards British, rather than continental European, influences. New Zealand audiences also tended to be very conservative and critical of artists who departed from the familiar style of clearly identifiable subjects and traditional perspectives.

Cubist art did emerge in New Zealand, albeit several decades later than overseas – but remains a lesser-known style in our national art history. This exhibition brings together artists Colin McCahon, Louise Henderson, Melvin Day, Charles Tole, John Weeks, and Wilfred Stanley Wallis to show a uniquely New Zealand expression of cubism.

Credit line: French Bay, Colin McCahon, 1957, courtesy of the Colin McCahon Research and Publication Trust

Credit line: French Bay, Colin McCahon, 1957, courtesy of the Colin McCahon Research and Publication Trust

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 20 May 2017


Nyree Dawn Porter (1936–2001), dancer and actor extraordinaire

Now that the Two Sisters exhibition is installed and open to the public, Jess and I are focusing our attentions on another iconic Hawke’s Bay woman: Nyree Dawn Porter (1936–2001), dancer and actor extraordinaire.

The initial impetus for the idea of an exhibition on Nyree came from six paintings, discovered in the Porters’ family home on Shakespeare Road in 2004. The young Nyree painted these directly on the walls of the living room, in which she taught dance during her teenage years. The paintings depict dancers in an array of poses with exaggerated long limbs. Her sister Merle Ayling recalled that Nyree painted them in this way to encourage her pupils to have long necks and elegant arms.

Melanie Oliver, the current owner of the paintings, offered to lend them to the Museum for exhibition. From this point, we began researching Nyree’s life and achievements. Her first love was dancing, and in 1954 the 18-year-old was the youngest dancer from Hawke’s Bay ever to receive the Solo Seal and Advanced Certificate from the Royal Academy of Dancing. She continued teaching dance up until joining a travelling acting troupe, ‘The New Zealand Players,’ in 1956. The major turning point in her life came two years later when she won the Miss Cinema contest, and moved to London to take up the prize of a screen test and follow her dream of becoming a star. The screen test turned out to be little more than a publicity stunt, but Nyree persisted and eventually embarked on an acting and dancing career in London’s theatres.

Nyree was catapulted into fame after landing the role of Irene in the Forsyte Saga: the first television literary soap opera. Broadcast in 1967, the show attracted a worldwide audience of over 160 million viewers in 26 countries. Her portrayal of the heroine captivated the public imagination, to the extent that when Neil Armstrong was asked who he would like to meet after he returned from the moon, he answered – Nyree Dawn Porter. Her performance also won Nyree a Bafta award and in 1970, she was appointed an OBE for services to television.

Nyree’s extraordinary fame in Britain and Europe did not translate back to her own country to the same extent. Ships were named after her, she received sack loads of fan mail, and even featured on British stamps but the BBC episode of ‘This is Your Life: Nyree Dawn Porter’ was never even shown on New Zealand television.

Through this exhibition, Jess and I hope to shed light on this remarkable performer and Hawke’s Bay woman. We would be very interested to hear from anyone who knew Nyree or who has related objects, photographs or information. The exhibition opens in September.

Gail Pope – Social History Curator, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 13 May 2017

Answering the Bugles Call

ANZAC Day holds a special place in the hearts of many New Zealander’s and more so over the years of the centenary period for The Great War.  As a young Cub Scout, I can remember proudly preparing my uniform with scarf and toggle, rising early, and making my way to the cenotaph in Hastings to join the Cub Pack in remembrance of those who fought for our freedom many decades ago.  Later I joined the Hastings Citizens Band and gained an appreciation for marching in the parade and leading the veterans from the cenotaph to the RSA for breakfast.  One of the traditions of the band was to cease playing while marching past the memorial outside Saint Matthews on Eastbourne Street.  There was an eerie solemnity of the parade marching to a solitary drum tap and then rousing the citizens’ with Colonel Bogey as if making a loud statement to those who did not rise to join us at 0530hrs – get up!

These young memories have stayed with me forever and ultimately shaped my own citizenship and need to participate in ANZAC services every year without fail.  It is our duty to remember and do our best to curb global conflict and maintain peace through peace.

I have always been and still am a keen bandsman, however it was my time as an army musician with the 7th Wellington and Hawke’s Bay Battalion Band where I truly learned the highest forms of military ceremony and the history of our local territorial unit.  Therefore, it is no surprise that my favourite object in our current World War One exhibition is Dr Frederick de Lisle’s bugle engraved with the insignia of the Hawke’s Bay Regiment.  This bugle was last sounded at Gallipoli and prior to that gave orders at Awapuni Camp and Cairo in 1914, El Kubri Suez Canal in 1915 and then the Dardanelles 25 April – 8 May 1915.

Being a bugler must have needed an immense amount of guts and there are many stories associated with buglers acts of courage under fire.  Buglers often fill my thoughts as I hug my tuba on parade, I really do not know if I would have cut the mustard as a soldier yet alone a bugler!  However many of those courageous young boys that went to the battlefield probably thought the same yet off they marched for God, King and Country under the guise of an overseas adventure.

Our World War One exhibition tells the Hawke’s Bay story well and will close on the 1st of May, this ANZAC Day we are opening the museum doors at 7.00am for families to view the exhibition and learn about our contribution to the war effort one last time.  The gallery will then tell the story of Maori waiata written during World War One with Houngarea marae at Pakipaki as the backdrop.  Pakipaki is where all Maori soldiers from the East Coast congregated for a final farewell before departing via rail to their training camp and then embarkation to Europe.  One of the waiata, E Pari Ra (Ebb Tides), written by Paraire Tomoana was later gifted to the Royal New Zealand Navy as their official Slow March.  The waiata was gifted to the Navy at Pakipaki in 1968, where the band marched up and down the marae playing the waiata as a slow march and have done so ever since.

So as we close one World War One story to tell another, we invite you all to enjoy the museum and World War One exhibition as a free open day.  Nau Mai! Haere Mai!  We Will Remember Them!

Bugle, 9th Hawkes Bay Regiment, gifted to the HB Museums Trust by Mrs Florence Le Lievre.

Bugle, 9th Hawkes Bay Regiment, gifted to the HB Museums Trust by Mrs Florence Le Lievre.

Charles Ropitini Pou Ārahi | Strategic Māori Advisor, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 22 April 2017


Volunteers vital part of museum

Volunteers are a vital part of the lifeblood for any healthy museum or art gallery. Volunteering in the arts and culture sector takes many different forms including governance, fundraising, tikanga advice, hosting in galleries and helping behind the scenes. For this column I’m focussing on volunteers who work in the gallery spaces and with the collections.

Volunteers working at the front of the museum (the public spaces) help bring the museum to life. Welcoming visitors into the gallery, they offer additional insights into exhibitions, and also listen to stories our visitors may want to share. Our volunteers know that not everyone likes being approached and they respect that. However many visitors welcome and appreciate this additional service, which personalises their museum visit. There’s nothing more satisfying when you have a connection, emotional response, or epiphany while in an exhibition, than to have someone to share it with. This ability to talk to another person – right there and then – when you are having an experience, really makes for a satisfying and unique visit.

Other volunteers give the gift of music to our visitors. There’s a dedicated group of musicians who come in and play the Bechstein piano, wherever it may be in the museum at that time. Sometimes, as exhibitions change over, a piano player may come in and find the piano has mysteriously moved to another part of the building. We know visitors enjoy hearing the piano and we hope our volunteers enjoy the occasional change of scenery when the piano is relocated.

Behind the scenes and out of the public eye is another kind of volunteer. They come in and help in all manner of ways. Scanning and processing photographs, assisting with getting objects out of storage or back into storage, sewing costumes for our education team, preparing objects for display, mounting textiles onto mannequins, and so on. While there are regular times these individuals work at the museum, they’re also called on when we have big exhibition preparation happening or a particular project to complete. For example when the ‘Uttermost Ends of the Earth: Hawke’s Bay at War 1914-1918’ exhibition was being installed we wanted to fill one of the archways in the Octagon with felt poppies. Who did we call in to make all the poppies – our lovely volunteers of course. They had a working bee round the boardroom table for several hours ensuring we had enough poppies for the effect we wanted.

Staff love our volunteers – they bring an absolute passion and positive energy with them. In appreciation of the work they do, this week we had a morning tea followed by a behind-the-scenes tour of the museum. I’m a firm believer in volunteers and know that we couldn’t achieve everything we do without them. Volunteers are an excellent litmus test for the health of organisations such as this. I’ve seen places where volunteers start leaving in droves and, if that happens, you know there’s something seriously wrong. I’m pleased to say our steadfast group of volunteers continue to show their loyalty. These wonderful people are real community treasures, so next time you’re in the museum, do say hello to them.

HELPING HANDS: MTG Volunteer Carol Dacey

HELPING HANDS: MTG Volunteer Carol Dacey

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 1 April 2017

Time for Tea: The Much-loved Cuppa

Our new exhibition opening today, “Time for Tea: the much-loved cuppa” explores New Zealander’s love affair with tea. While we may now be a nation of primarily coffee drinkers, our relationship with tea has a much deeper history. For centuries, Māori have been steeping leaves or roots of certain plants to make infusions for wellbeing. After the arrival of Europeans, Māori accommodated the ritual of providing hot tea when hosting Pākehā, and today every marae has one or more large canteen style teapots.

Tea has been such a pervasive part of our heritage that an 1895 Hawke’s Bay Herald article claimed, “nowhere in the world is so much tea consumed as in New Zealand.” A vital part of daily living, tea was the first thing offered to a guest upon arrival. Many homes boasted a china cabinet to display their best and most treasured fine china; for use only with guests.

Entirely sourced from the collection, this exhibition effectively opens up the museum’s china cabinet and brings out a range of teapots, cups, saucers, plates and other accoutrements for the making and serving of tea. On display are the trappings required for a successful Victorian afternoon tea with all the elegance and ritual that entailed. More amusing items such as ‘moustache cups’ show the interior shelf that was developed to prevent wax from moustaches melting and dripping into the hot drink.

Souvenir items showing scenes of Hastings and Napier are on display alongside examples of Art Deco tea sets and chinaware. One cup, of which we have two examples, shows Emerson Street, Napier immediately following the earthquake on one side and on the opposite side shows the scene following the rebuild. We would love to know if anyone in the community has examples of souvenir china showing scenes from other areas within wider Hawke’s Bay.

At eye level for children, three miniature china tea sets are displayed to view and enjoy. These reminisce back to a time when make-believe tea parties were a regular feature of childhood. With teddy bears and dolls, children could hold court and host their own tea party presiding over the teapot.

On the mezzanine floor upstairs, the Nelson Gallery provides a wonderful light-filled space but is challenging in terms of protecting objects from light and heat. However ceramics and metal are unaffected in this environment and we’re sure the public will enjoy the opportunity to see these beautiful, and sometimes quirky, objects in the clear natural light.

In our shop we have sourced a great range of books on tea along with Annette Bull mugs, beakers and milk jugs made using sand from Clive beach. All of which are beautiful as a treat for yourself but would also make fabulous gifts.

From the elegant rituals of Victorian tea through to rough and ready bush tea from a billy, this exhibition displays a variety of beautiful, utilitarian and odd items that were used in the preparation and drinking of tea. Every time I look at this collection of objects I develop a new favourite – my current is a tall rectangular teapot from Japan; clearly not made for a large party. We hope you’ll come in and enjoy this glimpse into New Zealand’s history and relationship with, what was once, our national drink; tea!

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 25 March 2017

Sea Walls a great festival

Sea Walls: Artists for Oceans is returning to Napier this week, following on from the huge success of this festival last year. It’s great to see this festival back again and this year MTG Hawke’s Bay Museum is getting onboard. The artworks created during Sea Walls share messages about critical ocean issues while also adding life and colour to our city and surrounds. Last year 29 artworks were created and this year a further 20 will be added. They certainly provide vibrancy and a focus to enjoy, ponder and discover as you walk around the city.

The museum has a perfect canvas for such a mural (a long blank wall), at the far end of our building on Browning Street. Russian artist, Rustam Qbic, was selected to create a mural in this space. Rustam is known for creating a “playful sense of the absurd” and there certainly is a delightful whimsical quality to the concept drawing provided. Cinzah Merkens, the local coordinator of Sea Walls said Rustam’s work is “about harmony and unity of humans interacting within their environment and the oceans marine life. Children working symbiotically with sea creatures such as the whale featured to take on a common cause, cleaning the world around them to build a brighter and better new world and future for the generations to come.”

We also checked in with our neighbours who will face the work and are delighted that when we showed them the concept drawing they loved it. We’re very pleased to be able to provide a better view than the plain blank wall they currently face and they will have the perfect vantage point to watch as this work evolves. Obviously we don’t want to give too much away but from Cinzah’s description above you will know that the artwork involves children and a whale. Rustam starts work on Monday so do come watch this artwork come to life and take the opportunity to talk with Rustam about the work.

Like the fabulous Tiffany Singh ‘Colours of Light’ art installation that was at the front of the museum for a month, we want to keep providing different and fresh concepts over time. For that reason this will not be a permanent artwork and will have a fixed timespan – in this case twelve months. While we have not decided what will follow this work, and it may not be anything immediately, there will be new ideas and expressions of art to share in the future.

I’m still occasionally surprised by finding Sea Walls murals I haven’t seen before and am delighted to know that there are more on the way. While we will all have favourites and, maybe not-so-favourites, it is fantastic to see this expression of art and caring about our oceans blossoming throughout the city.

SEA WALLS detail of mural by Cracked Ink, 2016

SEA WALLS detail of mural by Cracked Ink, 2016

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 18 March 2017

Great month for arts, culture and heritage in our region

February was an exceptional month for arts, culture and heritage in Hawke’s Bay, from the 1931 Earthquake and Waitangi Day commemorations, to the Art Deco Festival and the month-long Kahungunu Festival – capped off by the incredible Te Matatini.This month looks to be another busy one for us at the museum, with visiting artist Yuki Kihara coming for three weeks to research and create new artworks, based on the connections between Ngati Kahungunu and her homeland of Samoa.

Yuki is one of New Zealand’s leading ‘interdisciplinary’ artists (she works in a range of media, including photography, video, and performance art) – and remains the only New Zealander, as well as the only artist of Samoan heritage, to have had a solo exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Her interest in Hawke’s Bay was inspired by the narrative that tells how the waka Takitimu was built from ‘the great trees of Rata’s sacred forest’ in Samoa, many generations before carrying the ancestors of Ngati Kahungunu, and many other iwi, to Aotearoa New Zealand.

Over her three-week residency here, Yuki will build on this ancestral link, looking into more recent connections between local Maori and tagata Samoa in areas such as housing, church, school, work and more.

Her visit is particularly well-timed to research the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme, which sees up to 9,000 people come to New Zealand annually, from various Pacific Island nations, to work on orchards and vineyards for up to seven months at a time. Each summer, hundreds of Samoan workers come to Hawke’s Bay under the scheme and Yuki is interested in finding out how this effects Samoans both here and back home, along with the impacts on Ngāti Kahungunu, and Hawke’s Bay locals in general.

Yuki will be visiting orchards that take part in the RSE scheme, along with landing sites of the Takitimu, marae with strong ties to the waka, and suburbs with strong Maori and Samoan communities. She is looking forward to speaking with members of these communities, and we welcome anyone with ideas, stories or information relating to this project to share them by getting in touch with the museum.

Members of the public are also most welcome to the mihimihi to be held at the museum on the morning of Yuki’s arrival (Monday 13th). This will be followed by morning tea, a talk from Yuki about her art practice and the aims of her time in Hawke’s Bay, and a chance for discussion amongst those present. Contact the museum for more details if you would like to attend.

The result of the residency will be a new series of photographic artworks, which will be presented as part of Yuki’s solo exhibition at MTG in December this year.


Yuki Kihara: Photograph titled ‘After Tsunami Galu Afi, Lalomanu,’ 2013

Jessica Mio – Curator of Art, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 4 March 2017