Cool stuff from the selectors: Wunderkammer and Generation Wealth

Generation Wealth

9780714872124Lauren Greenfield began photographing in the early 1990s, capturing an era of conspicuous consumption. She was also there to document this rarefied world as it all cam tumbling down in the financial crash of 2008.  This is a hefty tome filled with brilliant photos and candid stories of wealth and decline.

Paper Time Machine

9781783523733Early photography lacked colour until skilled artisans began hand colouring prints.  In The Paper Time Machine, colouring is taken to a new level with each element in every photograph researched and colour checked for historical accuracy.  The photos are of the ordinary and the extraordinary brought to life and reconstructed with fascinating outcomes.


9781473664340I was in the bathroom shaving. Suddenly, unexpectedly, I saw the bathroom door move. I acted without even thinking – it was my regiment training kicking in – and thumped the door back with my heel as hard as I could.  It was my wife. The sharp end of the door, and the force of my kick split her face right open.  She’s never let me forget it.

Indeed … this rather horrible incident sums up the book, no one – and I mean no one – gets in the way of this guy.

Chris Ryan will show you how to be safe on an aircraft, mass terror incident, in the car, on the street and hopefully in your own house (with sisterly nod to Chris Ryan’s wife).

Wunderkammer: An Exotic Journey Through Time

9789401442725German for A Cabinet of Curiosities, Wunderkammer are showing up everywhere apparently, and could be the “next big thing”. Design workshops, expos, and interior design stores are bringing back the memories of the tradition of exotica –  material brought back by explorers from all over the world.  Think shells, stuffed animals, wild art and exotic varieties of well…everything!

Cool stuff from the Selectors: Children’s and adult fiction

CoverWild animals of the North by Dieter Braun
A children’s book about the animals who live across the 3 regions of North America, Europe and Asia. This book has been getting a lot of good reviews. The illustrations are stars. They are bright, stunning and show the animals as full of life and personality. This is the first in a series that will cover the animals of the world.

The Guardian has great examples of the illustrations.

CoverAnother animal book, this time from the always superb husband and wife team of Steve Jenkins and Robin Page. (They have produced 16 books together): Flying Frogs and Walking Fish : Leaping Lemurs, Tumbling Toads, Jet-propelled Jellyfish, and More Surprising Ways That Animals Move. 46 creatures in the typical paper collages against crisp white background style, showing  how they might march, stroll, tiptoe or perhaps glide soar or coast.


On the fiction front there are promising titles such Days Without End by the Irish writer Sebastian Barry, which is a kind of literary western along the lines of that terrific novel The Sisters Brothers. Barry’s earlier novel  The Secret Scripture has been filmed (with Rooney Mara, Vanessa Redgrave and Eric Bana) and is expected to bring more publicity to this very talented writer.

Other titles coming up from first rate novelists include Michael Chabon Moonglow, Alice Hoffman Faithful,  Alan Moore Jerusalem,  Ron Rash The Risen,  Zadie Smith Swing Time Stephenie Meyer The Chemist.

So … something for everyone


Cool stuff from the Selectors: Art, Science, and a bit of literarty


The art of typewriting
Our Selector has always found creating a picture using type to be rather appealing so has enjoyed the 570 illustrations ordered into letters and numbers, punctuation pictures, interlocking words, animals, household objects, maps and texts.

An Astronomers Tale: A Life Under the Stars
Gary Fildes, Bricklayer and average guy,  had a secret.  Eventually he came out – and followed his passion to become an astronomer.

The Fall of the House of Wilde
A new and interesting slant on the many times subject of biography Oscar Wilde which puts him as a member of one of the most dazzling Anglo-Irish families of Victorian times, and also how the family were involved in the broader social, political and religious context of the times.


Hankie Couture: Handcrafted Fashions From Vintage Hankerchiefs
Designs for that special doll in your life, or perhaps you will just enjoy browsing the pictures, I know I did!

Black Dolls From the Collection of Deborah Neff
Keeping with the doll theme, but from a totally differnt angle this book presents over 100 unique handmade African American dolls made between 1850 and 1930 from the collection of Deborah Neff, a Connecticut-based collector and champion of vernacular art. It is believed that African Americans created these dolls for the children in their lives, including members of their own families and respective communities as well as white children in their charge.  Stunning photography.

Outlander Kitchen
You’ve read the books, watched the TV series, now it’s time to cook Mrs. FitGibbon’s Overnight Parritch; Geilli’s Cullen Skink; Murtagh’s Gift to Ellen; Sarah Woolam’s Scotch Pies and Atholl Brose for the Bonnie Prince.

My best fiction reads of 2014

This is a purely personal list in that there are a lot of very good books which I should read and maybe could read but I haven’t. I haven’t read the Man Booker Prize winner, for example, as there is a long waiting list and it may be sometime next year before I get round to reading it.I am looking forward to the latest by Richard Ford and Colm Toibin but they haven’t turned up for me to read yet.

So here goes…

Cover of The Planner Cover of A dancer in the dust Cover of Cataract City

The planner Tom Campbell

A picture of what it’s like to be young and vaguely ambitious in London where a young town planner is uncertain whether to go for a job back up north or stay in London where he’s mixing with a fast set who have much more money than he does in their world of designer drugs, flashy lifestyles, expensive restaurants and strip clubs.The characters ring true and the novel is as entertaining as it is believable.

A dancer in the dust Thomas H. Cook

Cook is one of the best thriller writers around and has been sadly underrated for his first-rate and credible psychological thrillers. In this strong and quite sad story about a murder in New York linked to an African country mired in corruption, he has created a strong female character in a woman who loves the country she is in and tries to stand up to the enormous corruption around her.

Cataract City Craig Davidson

You may know him from his earlier novel Rust and bone which was made into an excellent film with Marion Cotillard.This later novel is about two childhood friends growing up in the Niagara Falls area and going separate ways. It’s a gripping story of a dark world of dogfighting, bare knuckle fighting, prison and tough lives, a world where the biggest undercover crime is cigarette smuggling across the US border. It’s an alien world to most of us but it is hugely readable if grim.

Cover of To rise again Cover of Nychotphobia Cover of  Fourth of July

To rise again at a decent hour Joshua Ferris

This year the Man Booker was opened up to American authors and this novel was on the shortlist. It’s a real oddity, clever and quirky and unusual enough to get on the shortlist but possibly too quirky to win! It’s about a dentist who finds someone has set up a fake website for his practice, followed by a Facebook page and a Twitter profile linked to a fringe religious sect, a worry for an avowed atheist. A weird and often very funny book with a serious core to it.

Nychtophobia Christopher Fowler

Fowler is the author of the highly entertaining Bryant and May mystery series and a couple of droll autobiographies. He’s a fan of horror movies and has written some horror tales for a small British imprint and this novel is one of these. It’s a genuinely strange story of a woman whose well-off husband buys a large house in Spain. Weird things occur and they seem to be linked to the history of the house and what happened in Spain in the time of the Civil War. Past and present combine in a novel which brings a new twist to the haunted house genre.

Fourth of July Creek Smith Henderson

If you’re looking for something cosy don’t go near this first novel about a social worker in a small depressed American town in the 1980s. The main character is trying to help a rural family with a paranoid survivalist father. At the same time his private life is falling apart with his marriage breaking up and his teenage daughter becoming a runaway. A screwed up central character who’s trying hard to do the right thing in a world that shouldn’t be this difficult makes for a gripping and powerful novel, one of the best debuts for some time.

Cover of A pleasure and a calling Cover of The road to reckoning Cover of Sleep in peace tonight

A pleasure and a calling Phil Hogan

Imagine a real estate agent who makes a copy of all the keys for properties he markets and generally behaves in a way that the Real Estate Institute wouldn’t sanction. What he learns about clients he uses for good ends (an older lady who is ill treated by a blowhard is punished in a wonderfully apposite and funny way) but things become darker and his invasion of private lives turns sinister. A terrific and original read.

The road to reckoning Robert Lautner

A literary western in the tradition of writers such as Charles Portis and even Cormac McCarthy. It’s the story of a twelve year old boy and his father in the 1830s who leave New York to travel west to sell the Samuel Colt reloading gun. Father and son are separated and the boy has to survive on his own until he meets an ex-ranger and the two set out bent on revenge. A tough tale with a heart but little sentimentality, it would make a terrific movie.

Sleep in peace tonight James MacManus

Britain during World War II before the Americans enter the war is seen though the eyes of Roosevelt’s envoy to Britain. This is a vivid and detailed portrait of time and place with strong portraits of Roosevelt and Churchill and cameos by many real people of the time. A gripping tale of a time of great uncertainty as Churchill stood alone while Roosevelt wavered as isolationists called the tune in the U.S.

Cover of The assassination of Margaret Thatcher Cover of Head of State Cover of The Restoration of Otto Laird

The assassination of Margaret Thatcher Hilary Mantel

Naturally the title story catches the eye immediately and it is a droll tale of an assassin getting ready to do the deed in a flat of a woman who is bemused by the situation she finds herself in. Other stories deal with domestic disharmony and women who finally crack under social pressure and one deals with expat life in Dubai and another a tale of a drive home in a farm vehicle which may have hit something en route. Only in the last words do you realise what.

Head of state Andrew Marr

Marr is the well known broadcaster and journalist and he wrote this novel during recovery from a stroke. It’s an outrageous comedy about politics and what happens (in 2017) when a referendum on the EU is looming. Venal politicians, foul mouthed newspaper editors, a female US President, the death of the P.M. kept secret, murders…it’s all wildly over the top but very funny.

The restoration of Otto Laird Nigel Packer

A television company is making a documentary on the Dutch architect of a postwar London tower block which in its day was seen as a bold social experiment but has since fallen into disrepair. The man himself was an émigré to Britain, having been brought up in hiding during the Nazi occupation. A fascinating tale that takes in the life of the man, his wife and family.

Cover of Fives and Twenty fives Cover of Family Life Cover of Jam

Fives and twenty-fives Michael Pitre

The Iraq conflict seen through the story of a platoon whose job it is to clear potholes on the Western Iraq highway, potholes that will usually contain some kind of explosive device. The author joined the Marines in 2002 and was deployed twice to Iraq. An excellent novel, the best war novel for some time, it gives the feel of what happened to the ordinary soldier in the conflict.

Family life Akhil Sharma

An Indian family come to America and life is going well until the golden boy of the family has a terrible accident and what happens from then on cripples the family financially. I didn’t realise when I read this novel that it was based on real and terrible events that happened to the author and his family. A really powerful and moving piece of work and all the better for its unsettling and sad story being told with such quiet power.

Jam Jake Wallis Simons

What would happen if there was some sort of accident on the M25. Nobody knows what has happened and there is no mobile coverage to find out why. A disparate cast of characters – an arguing family, a bunch of racist yobs, a Waitrose driver who must guard the contents of his van, an expert on bugs, a history professor, university students – wait the situation out in this clever and unnerving novel.

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Man at the helm Nina Stibbe

How many novels have there been about terrible parents? In this lively novel it’s an irresponsible gadabout mother who breaks most of the rules of parenting and runs though a succession of unsuitable men. The title refers to the necessity (seen by others) of women having “a man at the helm.” The book is narrated by the children who don’t really understand what’s going on and there’s a strong Nancy Mitford quality about the book.

Completion Tim Walker

If you liked state of the nation novels like John Lanchester’s Capital, try this excellent British novel. A house in an expensive part of London (well, all of London is expensive, this is just top end) was the setting for a series of children’s books by the mother of the family. The parents are no longer together and members of the family live in Dubai, East London and France. What happens to them makes for a highly readable story.

Hotel Alpha Mark Watson

Big hotels have been the background for many novels as well as television series such as Hotel Babylon and movies like The Grand Budapest Hotel. Perhaps the appeal is that hotels are somewhat removed from the everyday world. Certainly the hotel in this one is – the owner is something of an idealist but not a conventional one. He interacts with an interesting cast of characters while hiding secrets. The changing world of technology and how it alters the hotel world is part of this highly readable novel.

Boxer handsome Anna Whitwham

An excellent first novel inspired by the grandfather of the author who’d been a boxer In London’s East End. The novel is set in Hackney where a third generation boxer falls for a preschool teacher from outside his world. It’s a strong novel about some tough and troubled people but it gripped me throughout and it’s actually quite moving.

Into the trees Robert Williams

A couple sell their house in town for one in a forest (seems to be somewhere like Lancashire) where they hope for a calming of their small daughter who won’t stop crying. Things improve until a violent incident invades their safe place. Characterisation is superb as the other characters – even those that act violently – are understandable. I found the novel completely gripping.

Philip Tew
Fiction selector

Glam stuff from the selectors

For those of you who love to pore over glamorous pictures and design, we have some beautiful books for you this month.

Art Nouveau FashionArt Nouveau Fashion

A wonderful book to browse through. Enjoy the stunning and glamorous designs of Worth, Paquin, Poiret, Fortuny and many more. You will learn how the style overlaps with late Arts and Crafts movement in the 1890s and early Modernism in the 1910s, and then wallow in the beautiful pictures of Art Nouveau jewellery and accessories, and new colour photographs of gar­ments from the V&A’s collection.

Hollywood Frame by Frame

Cover of Hollywood Frame by FrameHundreds of never-before-published photos from the sets of some of the greatest films of the twentieth century. Hollywood’s biggest stars are caught with their guard down behind the scenes of movie classics from Some Like It Hot and Breakfast at Tiffany’s to Taxi Driver and The Silence of the Lambs. A treasure trove for any fan of Hollywood s Golden Age, this rare glimpse of the unseen silver screen will intrigue even movie buffs who think they’ve seen everything.

If you have a scientific bent, but still enjoy a good photograph then Molecules could fill all your needs!

MoleculesGray goes beyond the 118 elements in the periodic table to explore, through fascinating stories and stunning photographic imagery, what he considers to be the most essential and interesting of the millions of possible chemical bonds. At the beginning of Molecules, Gray explains what molecules and compounds are, what holds them together and how they form bonds, the difference between ionic and covalent bonds, how molecules get their names and what their scientific names mean and the difference between organic and inorganic compounds.

Ladybird : a cover story : 500 Iconic coversLadybird

The size of an original ladybird book (a mite thicker though) and scanned directly from Ladybird’s own archives – tattered jackets, battered edges and all – made our selector feel very nostalgic.

It contains 500 iconic covers from the Ladybird archives, ranging from the most-loved covers of the 1940s, 50s and 60s to some of the more unusual and striking Ladybird covers from the 1970s and 80s. This book showcases personal favourites from Ladybird staff both past and present, and those of Ladybird fans from around the world.

One from left field and a nominee for best title of the year….

Cover of Behold the beautiful dung beetleBehold the beautiful dung beetle 

Surprisingly lovely to look at with impressive watercolours,  you will learn everything you ever wanted (or didn’t want) to know about the dung beetle. For example did you know that there are over 5000 species of dung beetle and they can make a cow pat disappear in 24 hours?

Animal architecture to archives: Cool new stuff from the Selectors

Animal architecture by Ingo Arndt is a photographic tribute to animal nests and shelters which are functional, complex and beautiful, however this book is not just all about the pictures (stunning though they are) it also ticks all the boxes for containing scientific facts and insights into animal behaviour.

Our Fiction buyer has been busy this month and has noted that there are so many takes on literary classics that you might assume they’ve all been done. However, Tom Grass, whose background is in the film industry, has a debut novel coming out soon called Twist, with the title character Twist as a teenager on the run from the police and saved by the mysterious Dodge who introduces him to Cornelius Faginescu, described as an “art collector.” No songs in all this.

One of the literary greats of today would have to be Margaret Atwood and she has a new one – Stone mattress – coming out. It’s a volume of short stories.

Also taking the short story route is Man Booker Prize winner Hilary Mantel and her collection has the intriguing title of The assassination of Margaret Thatcher. Fans of Hilary in her historical fiction hat might like to know that the television miniseries adaptation of Wolf Hall will be shown in Britain in 2015. It’s a six-parter and Cromwell is played by Mark Rylance with Damian Lewis as King Henry, Claire Foy as Anne Boleyn and Joanne Whalley as Catherine of Aragon.

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Cover of The Scraps BookOur children’s Non Fiction book buyer loved The scraps book.

The renowned Caldecott Honouree and illustrator provides a moving, intimate, and inspiring inside look at her colourful picture book career. Lois Ehlert always knew she was an artist. Her parents encouraged her from a young age by teaching her how to sew,  saw wood, pound nails, and by giving her colourful art supplies. Today, many years and many books later, Lois takes readers and aspiring artists on a delightful behind-the-scenes tour of her books and her book-making process. Part fascinating retrospective, part moving testament to the value of following your dreams, this richly illustrated picture book is sure to inspire children and adults alike to explore their own creativity.

Secrets of the National Archives: The stories behind the letters and documents of our past.

This book is on order so there is nothing to see yet but I was intrigued by the idea that the staff at the National Archives in Britain were given the opportunity to choose their favourite documents from out of 120 miles of papers that the Archives contain.  What would they choose and why?  The Magna Carta, a letter from Queen Elizabeth or a ships log by Captain Cook?  I think this could we a wee gem for those secret archivists amongst us.

And lastly some music to finish off.

Secrets of the National Archives

The Stories Behind the Letters and Documents of Our Past

– See more at:

VOCES8 are an cappella octet from the United Kingdom, and our music buyer says:

Pure and meltingly mesmerising. Don’t expect a haka-boogie good time from this one


From New Zealand to New York: Cool new stuff from selectors

The Native Land Court 1862-1887Cover of The Native Land Court by Richard Boast.

Perhaps not the easy read to take on holiday but never the less an important moment in our understanding of New Zealand history, this book contains a full introduction explaining the history of the Maori Land Court and contains over 100 principal cases each of which include full text and introductory commentary explaining the case and its significance.

The author stresses that this is a New Zealand legal history, not to “Maori history” or ethnohistory, and this interview with him explains more fully his reasons for writing such an important book.


Taryn Simon: The Picture Collection

I haven’t actually seen this book, but seeing as it is inspired by the New York Public Library’s picture archive (which contains 1.2 million prints, postcards, posters, and printed images, most of which have been cut from secondary sources, such as books and magazines,) I am intrigued to see the images it contains. The book is based on an exhibition of the same name.

Cover of Humans of New YorkHumans of NewYork  emerged from a very popular blog of the same name.  It features random photos from around New York of everyday people, alongside anecdotes that capture what life it really like in a vibrant often unforgiving city.

I’ve taken over 5,000 portraits of people in New York, and I find out a little bit about everyone I photograph…”

“Well, you’re not finding out a thing about me!”



Cover of Stuff I've been readingIn his new book Stuff I’ve been Reading Nick Hornby tells us to “read what you enjoy, not what bores you”.  Taken from the American magazine The Believer these short entertaining articles give us a glimpse of Nick Hornby’s life and reading habits, and is definitely a book to enjoy!







four hundred colour photos, including exclusive portraits and all-new stories, and a distinctive vellum jacket, Humans of New York is a stunning collection of images that will appeal not just to those who have been drawn in by the outsized personalities of New York, but to anyone interested in the breathtaking scope of humanity it displays. Heartfelt and moving, Humans of New York is a celebration of individuality and a tribute to the spirit of a city. “An instant publishing phenomenon.” –“The New York Times” “Visually arresting and disarmingly deep… The photographs in this volume, some of which have never been published before, capture the city’s inhabitants with a commendable eye for demographic diversity and everyday street fashion. But it’s Stanton’s interviews with his subjects, usually excerpted from their rawest moments, that are the most captivating as they highlight both the hardship and the little victories of an often-unforgiving city.” – – See more at:
four hundred colour photos, including exclusive portraits and all-new stories, and a distinctive vellum jacket, Humans of New York is a stunning collection of images that will appeal not just to those who have been drawn in by the outsized personalities of New York, but to anyone interested in the breathtaking scope of humanity it displays. Heartfelt and moving, Humans of New York is a celebration of individuality and a tribute to the spirit of a city. “An instant publishing phenomenon.” –“The New York Times” “Visually arresting and disarmingly deep… The photographs in this volume, some of which have never been published before, capture the city’s inhabitants with a commendable eye for demographic diversity and everyday street fashion. But it’s Stanton’s interviews with his subjects, usually excerpted from their rawest moments, that are the most captivating as they highlight both the hardship and the little victories of an often-unforgiving city.” – – See more at:

Coming up mysteriously: Cool new stuff from our selectors

If ever there was a genre that is over subscribed it is mystery and crime. Just as the BBC and other networks are doing more crime and mystery shows that you might imagine, the publishing industry has reached a point where they couldn’t see a murder they didn’t like.

Among the more interesting ones coming up are:

  • Arne Dahl’s To the top of the mountain (features a male-female Swedish detective duo)
  • Rennie Airth’s The reckoning (murder in the Sussex countryside just after the end of WWII)
  • William Shaw’s A house of knives (his second novel, again set in the 1960s)
  • Alafair Burke’s All day and a night (the latest from the excellent American author, now becoming just as famous as her mystery writer father)
  • John Gordon Sinclair’s Blood whispers (set in Glasgow and the second novel by the actor best known for Gregory’s girl)
  • Hans Olav Lahlum’s The human flies (first English translation for a bestselling Norwegian writer)

And these are just a few – most, of course, won’t sell like the second Robert Galbraith novel (by You Know Who, the biggest selling children’s writer on the planet).

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Selfies, Maps and a Prince Philip cult: Cool new stuff from our Selectors

Cover of Tigers foreverTigers forever: Saving the world’s most endangered big cat by Steve Winter
This book showcases a decade of beautiful photographs and stories of tigers in the wild.  Alongside the spectacular photography by Steve Winter, and award winning National Geographic photographer are the stories of the committed people from all around the world who dedicate their lives to saving the tiger from extinction

Cover of My first AnimaliaMy first Animalia by Graeme Base
Animalia was first published in 1986, immediately capturing the imagination of children and adults around the world.  My First Animalia celebrates the magic of Animalia in a playful introductory format for the very young, but will appeal to all ages!

Cover of GoGo : a Kidd’s guide to graphic design by Chip Kidd
The author is an award winning graphic designer who has created a kid friendly (and adult friendly too) book on how to get your design ideas across to the world, showing how to make design dynamic and interesting. The back of the book contains 10 suggested projects to get started and these can then be posted to

Cover of MapsMaps by Aleksandra Mizielinska
This collection of 52 highly illustrated maps details not only geographical features and political borders, but also places of interest, iconic personalities, native animals and plants, local peoples, cultural events, and many more fascinating facts associated with each region. Check examples of the maps – they really are quirky and very interesting.  The New Zealand map has lots of well known icons, but nothing for Christchurch.  What is our global icon now?

Cover of SelfiesSelfies: Self -portrait photography with attitude by Jan-Haje Kamps
Apparently the Selfie is more than just pointing the camera at yourself and making a duckface. “Selfie” was added to the online version of the Oxford dictionary in August and is being considered for future inclusion in the more traditional Oxford English Dictionary so it must be here to stay!  This book might be the answer to those endless rather banal images that clutter Facebook, or perhaps Kim Kardashian (the expert in self promotion) can also set you on the right path?

Cover of Man belong Mrs QueenMan belong Mrs Queen : adventures with the Philip worshippers / Baylis, Matthew.
This has to one of the months more unusual books as it is about a Prince Philip- loving cult (Yes you did read this right – the Prince Philip of the dreadful gaffes) that exists on the South Sea Island of Tanna.

On the rumbling slopes of this remarkable volcanic island, banjaxed by daily doses of the local narcotic, suffering from a diet of yams and regularly accused of being a divine emissary of the Duke, Baylis uncovered a religion unlike any other on the planet. Self-deprecating, hilarious and enlightening, “Man Belong Mrs Queen” is travel writing at its horizon-expanding best.

Delectable New Zealand – cool new stuff from our selectors

There have been some lovely new New Zealand titles coming through in the last month, here are a few to get your taste buds and artistic juices flowing!

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Kiwiana Cupcakes, Cake Pops and Whoopie Pies
If you are a keen cupcake decorator, this book will give you new ideas and know how to create extraordinary Kiwiana-styled cupcakes to celebrate our own culture.

Flowers at home
Plenty of ideas from Sandra Kaminski for opulent flower arrangements in your home.  Worth getting out just to look at the beautiful photography.

One pot cooking
Right in time for the cold season comes Richard Till’s book with 60 easy-to-make one-pot recipes. So, get cooking and invite friends to share a hearty meal!

His own steam
If you see the pictures in this lavishly produced book about the work of potter extraordinaire Barry Brickell you want to own one of his! The book coincides with an exhibition of Barry’s work at The Dowse Art Museum in Lower Hutt until 11 August 2013.