Going public : New Zealand art museums in the 1970s : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Museum Studies at Massey University

Thumbnail Image
Open Access Location
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Massey University. School of Maori Studies
The Author
This thesis examines the reputation the 1970s have as a renaissance era for New Zealand public art galleries.It does this by considering the formation and development of galleries in the period as well as their approaches. Public and community involvement, energy, innovation, activism, and engagement with contemporary New Zealand art are key areas of approach investigated since increases in each are associated with galleries in the seventies.The notion of a renaissance is also particularly associated with provincial galleries. In order to examine this idea in detail three "provincial" galleries are taken as case studies. They are the (then named) Dowse Art Gallery, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery and Manawatu Art Gallery.The seventies are revealed as a "culture change" era for public art galleries in New Zealand. New ones were founded, many were rebuilt or substantially altered, and there was a shift from the rule of the amateur to that of the professional. The majority of existing galleries went from being static institutions with few staff, neglected collections, and unchanging exhibitions, to become much more publicly oriented and professionally run operations. Moreover, while change occurred across nearly all institutions, it tended to be led from the provinces.Several reasons are suggested for the forward-looking nature of the three case study galleries. One is that they reflected the energy and flexibility that goes with new, small organisations. Another is that all three existed in cities with little appreciation of art and culture and so had to strenuously prove themselves to gain community acceptance and civic support.Other galleries, particularly the metropolitans, are shown to have followed the lead of the progressive focus institutions. Influencing factors on changes in all New Zealand galleries are therefore also sought. They include the growth in new, well educated, sophisticated, and internationally-aware audiences; greater production and public awareness of New Zealand art; interest in exploring a New Zealand identity; world-wide revolutionary social changes in the '60s and '70s; and increased government funding for building projects.The changes that took place in New Zealand art galleries in the 1970s are shown to sit within the wider contexts of increasing trends towards public orientation by museums internationally, both before and during the decade, and in New Zealand since the seventies. However, the very notion of public orientation is also suggested to be historically relative and, ultimately, politically driven.
Art museums, Art galleries, New Zealand, 1970s