Auckland Art Gallery has appointed Allan Smith, currently Senior Lecturer of Basic Design at Wellington Polytechnic, as
its first Curator of Contemporary Art - an entirely new position at the Gallery.
Created as part of the restructuring of the Gallery’s curatorial positions, the first in many years, the new position is
responsible for all contemporary art acquisitions and exhibitions.
Previous positions in contemporary art have focused on either New Zealand and Pacific or international art, whereas the
new position is responsible for both, says Chris Saines, Gallery Director.
“We are looking to Allan to broadly and vigorously develop our engagement with
contemporary art at every level of the Gallery’s programme.
“He comes to Auckland with an impressive background as a visual arts writer, educator and curator.
“I am confident that he will quickly establish himself here and give us the national leadership and institutional
profile we are looking for.”
Smith, whose varied career includes Curator, City Gallery, Wellington and Lecturer, Art and Design History and Theory at
Unitech Institute of Technology, has curated several seminal exhibitions in the last five years.
These include The Nervous System: images and identities in crisis at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in 1995, Dick
Frizzell: portraite of a serious artiste at City Gallery, Wellington in 1997, and the forthcoming Fear & Beauty: New Zealand art at the end of the millennium to be exhibited later this year at the Suter Gallery, Nelson.
“Diversity is the nature of a curator’s role these days”, says Smith. “The changes over the last two decades means that
there is a huge range of issues and approaches being pursued and contested simultaneously.”
“I will be involved in a variety of exhibition types from monographic shows which profile the work of our mid-career and
senior artists; through projects which initiate conversations between local and international artists, such as the
Stephen Bambury/Helmut Federle exhibition; to group shows driven by philosophical interrogations that shake up old
alignments and get us looking at things in new ways.”
“I have a particular interest in exhibitions that deal with our troubled history - where irreconcilable or unresolved
historical content pokes through into the present - to some extent the Nervous System, which looked at local and global
history as a series of shocks creating new patterns of experience, was this type of exhibition.”
Smith acknowledges that juggling competing audience expectations is part and parcel of a curator’s role.
“Personally I have no real problem with an occasional exhibition like the Star Trek show on at Te Papa, as long as this
sort of event is seen as one end of a very wide spectrum of cultural production.”
“There is definitely a place for various types of mega exhibitions which maximise consumer satisfaction, but we also
need exhibitions which employ a slower, more incisive examination of their material.”