With the art floor at Te Papa closing on 26 February, a capacity audience of Friends took the opportunity to hear Sarah Farrar, Senior Art Curator, and Charlotte Davy, Head of Art, talk on what has been and give a glimpse of what is to come; as well as taking a last look at the current display.

Sarah looked back at Te Papa’s different approaches to displaying art since it opened on 14 February 1998.  The collection based art exhibition was displayed on level four in an exhibition called Parade, which provocatively juxtaposed everyday objects like a refrigerator with ‘art as we know it’ such as a Colin McCahon painting. This appealed to neither art lovers nor the general public and the following iterations of art displays were not as deliberately provocative.

In 2001, Athfield Architects carried out the level five refit, extending the Boulevard gallery and adding the ‘low stud’ galleries resulting in more exhibition space. With the late Jonathan Mane-Wheoki on the staff, other exhibitions attempted to tell a bicultural history of art in Aotearoa New Zealand.

In 2008 the art space on level four closed; it is this area, opposite Espresso Café, on the former Slice of Heaven footprint, that is being reclaimed for art in this renewal project. Charlotte gave us a taster of the much-expanded exhibition space: the main entrance will be on level four and a new staircase will take people up to level five. Architects Warren and Mahoney have been commissioned to complete this refit.

In 2013 the current Ngā Toi | Arts Te Papa exhibitions opened, with the last display being the sixth season.  Although Friends will be sad to have no dedicated art floor at Te Papa for several months, we eagerly await the opening of the expanded and redesigned spaces towards the end of the year.

We look forward to keeping you informed during the year on progress of this new development.