On four mornings in spring a full bus set off from Te Papa for day trips to Porirua, Masterton, Upper Hutt and Hutt City to visit the art museums in each of these cities; Pataka, Aratoi, Expressions and the Dowse. There’s a certain civic grandeur about all these modern buildings. Visitors enter spacious light-filled lobbies, each with a shop offering local jewellery, glossy catalogues and cards, and adjoining a lively cafe.

These museums are all at the heart of their city’s cultural life. In Porirua, Pataka shares the same complex as the city library and a sheltered courtyard garden, and all the museums provide space for community events. You could spend a happy morning without even visiting the exhibitions.

Doris de Pont, curator of the Homesewn exhibition, talking to the Art Lover Tourists.

Doris de Pont, curator of the Homesewn exhibition, talking to the Art Lover Tourists.

A step beyond the welcoming lobbies, are the galleries where rich and diverse exhibitions, all free-of charge, are waiting to delight visitors, whether alone or by the bus load. At Pataka, Director Helen Kedgley welcomed the group and Curator Mark Hutchins introduced artist Rob McLeod.  McLeod was as lively as his installation, Imposters, Aliens and Angels, as he talked about his colourful cartoon-inspired characters, describing them as “familiar and initially endearing, but often with an aggressive dark underside.”  In the next gallery, Joseph Michael held everyone enthralled by Dark Cloud/White Light, in which he used time-lapse photography to capture 24 hours in 12 dramatic New Zealand landscapes, each accompanied by an original sound track. Uke Rere, a survey of five Māori ceramic artists and Marian Maguire’s Titikokowaru’s Dilemma were also impressive.

At Aratoi, newly appointed Director Alice Hutchison welcomed the visitors from Wellington with coffee and blueberry & toasted coconut muffins, and later introduced Then and Now, a survey of fine New Zealand photographs from the 19th century until the present.  Haami Te Whaiti, curator Māori, gently enriched our understanding of Wairarapa Ahakaputa Mohio – Settling the Land, an exhibition illustrating the district’s complex and disquieting history.  Collection Manager Bronwyn Reid conducted small groups on fascinating but all-too-short back of house tours.

In the Hutt Valley, the exhibitions at Expressions and The Dowse made a witty pair. At Expressions, Curator Chris Doherty-McGregor introduced rugby photographer and raconteur Peter Bush who sat surrounded by dozens of photographs comprising Hard on the Heels: Peter Bush – Capturing the All Blacks, while he shared the joys and sorrows of the sporting moments he had captured on film. Down the road at The Dowse, Sian van Dyk, Curator Programmes and Events, welcomed us to an exhibition reflecting a more feminine side of our culture, Homesewn: Original New Zealand Fashion.  Doris de Pont, who had curated the exhibition, then guided us through the beautifully crafted, home-sewn garments.  Although describing herself as not a ‘saver’ of her own clothes, Doris is a Trustee of the New Zealand Fashion Museum, which provided the clothes for this exhibition.  Also enjoyed was an international exhibition, New Olds: Design between Tradition and Innovation, comprising objects created by 45 designers, all exploring the transformation of design classics.

These engaging Art Lover Tours were sponsored by the Wellington Regional Amenities Fund as a free pilot project to introduce Wellington people to the art museums of other cities in the region.  As a guide for further projects, all participants filled in questionnaires commenting on the tours.

Lois Daish
Committee, Friends of Te Papa

Results from the survey:  Thank you to all came on the tours and completed the survey, your feedback was valuable. 100% of you indicated you were interested in more tours such as these.  This is great news and we look forward to including more ‘art lover’ tours in Friends programme next year.

Feature Image: Detail from Kapowairua/Spirits Bay 2013, from Dark Cloud/White Light, a new media installation by Joseph Michael