The outdoor art gallery

When I first moved to Christchurch, there were very few wall murals and the outdoor sculptures were just statues of monarchs or founding fathers. For my art fix, I headed off to the Robert McDougall Art Gallery, tucked in behind the museum in the Botanic Gardens. It was a lovely building, full of many wondrous works of art. It was too small and could only have a fraction of its collection on display. I was delighted to visit the new Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu in 2003. My favourite pieces were on display and there were galleries full of paintings I had never seen before.

When the earthquakes struck and the gallery was closed, I thought it would be years before I saw art in Christchurch. I was wrong. It seamed that every smooth wall and every spare space made way for art.

Container Love Close-Up


The road to Sumner became an art gallery when all the shipping containers got decorated. When I arrived in Sumner, almost every container, fence and wall had been pimped out.

Wongi Art on St Asaph Street, Flickr 2014-12-15-IMG_3940
Wongi Art on St Asaph Street, Flickr 2014-12-15-IMG_3940

New Brighton and Lyttelton were the next colourful destinations. What could have been depressing road trips became an adventure. I wanted to see what the locals had in store.

The ruined buildings in the central city became the canvas for many artists, and they made walking through town much more enjoyable that it could have been. The Justice Precinct has copies of works of art on the wall. Copies of paintings are on a wall on Moorhouse Avenue.

Everywhere I looked, there was a mural on a wall. Unfortunately, a mural on Barbadoes Street has almost disappeared because of the construction of a new building. I expect I’ll be waiting a long time to see it in all its glory again.

Re:START Mall is pretty colourful. I think I can count that as a work of art.

Gap Filler created works of art too. They really are almost sculptures. The spaces created were unexpected and made me smile.

Sound Garden on Peterborough Street


I have missed the Art Gallery and I am looking forward to wandering through its rooms again. However, when it was closed, I realised one important thing: Christchurch is an art gallery.

Haere mai Christchurch Art Gallery

“We regret that the Gallery is currently closed for repairs.” I’m used to seeing that on the Christchurch Art Gallery website. But now there is a new message twinkling at me: “We’ll be reopening on Saturday 19 December at 10.00am.” Yes, the big news in town is that the Christchurch Art Gallery is set to re-open TOMORROW, and they are going to spoil us rotten with a Summer of Art. YAY!

The last exhibition I saw at Christchurch Art Gallery was Ron Mueck. Remember that? I was wowed, and took loads of photos.

Ron Mueck Exhibition
Ron Mueck Exhibition. October 2010. Flickr CCL-RonMueck-2010-10-01-IMG_0647

But while the gallery has been closed to the public since 22 February 2011, it has carried on its work. In the process, it has changed the perception of what a gallery is, and does. I’d like to pay tribute to the amazing team at Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu  – in the last five years they’ve shown an art gallery is more than a building – he tangata, he tangata, he tangata (it is people, it is people, it is people).

Sign on Art Gallery
Kay Rosen: Here are the people and there is the steeple. Sunday 19 October 2014. Flickr 2014-10-19-IMG_2763

Here’s some of the ways the crew have kept us art lovers satisfied:

Art in the streets

Outer Spaces and artworks out there in wilding Christchurch …

1 July 2012. Michael Parekowhai's installation "On first looking into Chapman's Homer". 1 July 2012. Flickr CCL-2012-07-01IMG_472
Michael Parekowhai’s installation “On first looking into Chapman’s Homer”.  July 2012. Flickr CCL-2012-07-01IMG_4725
Gregor Kregar: Reflective Lullaby
Gregor Kregar: Reflective lullaby Friday 11 October 2013. Flickr 2013-10-11-IMG_9730
Ronnie van Hout - coming home
Comin’ down by Ronnie van Hout.  28 May 2014. Flickr 2014-05-28-IMG_0132

Read curator Felicity Milburn’s article Sparks that fly upwards on “five years and 101 installations in a gallery without walls”.

Art in libraries

Our temporary Central Library Peterborough could claim to be an Art Library. It features Richard Killeen’s the Inner binding on its frontage.

Central Library Peterborough also showcased  splendid exhibitions curated by Peter Vangioni – books and art came together in a beautiful way.

A History of the Birds of New Zealand (1873) by Walter Buller
A History of the Birds of New Zealand (1873) by Walter Buller. New Zealand Illustrated: Pictorial Books from the Victorian Age.  Friday 11 October 2013. Flickr 2013-10-11-IMG_9757


There were a steady stream of interesting exhibitions in other places. I toddled along to a space above the NG gallery, upstairs at C1 Espresso/Alices on Tuam Street, and even to a show in a house at the Wigram subdevelopment.

Keeping us in touch

Their supercool mag Bulletin, blogging, social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), regular articles in The Press (the latest in the series From the Christchurch Art Gallery collection is Lara Strongman on Wilhelmina Bay, Antarctica by Anne Noble)  – curators and other staff continually keep up to date with arty stuff.

Whanau fun

The Christchurch Art Gallery’s work over the last five years has kept kids in mind. As a Mum, that means a lot. For the re-opening, there’s a lolly wonderland by Tanya Schultz to welcome the kids in, as well as the Imagination Playground – and plenty more kid-friendly things to do and see.  I can’t wait to take my daughter in on Saturday and say “Here you go! This is your gallery!”

Out of the box - Christchurch Art Gallery family fun day
Saturday 27 September 2014. Out of the box family fun day. Flickr 2014-09-27-IMG_2354

Hopefully see you there on Saturday!

More art

If you want to know about the building itself over the last five years, Lara Strongman’s oral history of the gallery building, 2010-2015 is essential reading.