Homes are places to retreat to. But they also reflect how we’d like to be seen. The contemporary art in this exhibition explores what happens when home life goes ‘on display’.
With home ownership increasingly out of reach for New Zealanders, these uninhabited works are particularly poignant. These are spaces you might imagine living in, but never actually will – from mini ‘playhouses’ to dining rooms with desirable décor.
Graham Fletcher, Untitled. From the series Lounge room tribalism, 2011. Purchased 2013. Te Papa (2013-0024-1)
In this imagined living room, pieces of iconic art and designer furniture share the space with a Polynesian carving. Who lives here? And why did they arrange these objects just so?
This painting is part of a series called ‘Lounge room tribalism’. Graham Fletcher, a Samoan New Zealander, composed these scenes after seeing tribal objects displayed inside real homes – ‘from middle-class villas to student flats’. These objects are separated from their original cultural context. The result, in Fletcher’s view, is an ‘odd, yet complementary, mixture of the contemporary and the sacred’.
Derrick Cherrie, Studio, 2001. Purchased 2001. Te Papa (2001-0028-1)
Downsizing might be popular these days, but you’d find it tricky to live in a house this small.
Studio is a half-scale model of a real home – a sort of playhouse for adults. You can’t see inside it or open the door, and yet you wonder what it would be like to make it your own. How would you furnish it? Where would you eat or sleep?
Martino Gamper, Sliced Stracciatella (table). From Gesamtkunsthandwerk, 2011. Te Papa (2011-0034-1/1-19).
This set-up looks familiar – a table and chairs, a place for food and conversation. But look closely and surprises emerge. A chair has been made from a drawer and a coffin-shaped piece of wood. A tree stump is reinvented as a stool.
Everything here was handmade by three collaborating artists – jeweller Karl Fritsch, furniture designer Martino Gamper, and sculptor Francis Upritchard. The work’s title, Gesamtkunsthandwerk, is a play on the German word Gesamtkunstwerk – a ‘total artwork’ combining various disciplines. The artists inserted the word ‘hand’. For them, the experimentation and handmaking of the objects is the main point here – the sawing, firing, moulding, and gluing that transformed raw or mass-produced materials into something new.
Karl Fritsch, Candlestick holder. From Gesamtkunsthandwerk, 2011. Te Papa (2011-0034-1/9-19).
Martino Gamper, Francis Upritchard, Karl Fritsch, Gingerbronze. From Gesamtkunsthandwerk, 2011. Te Papa (2011-0034-1/11-19).
Martino Gamper, Belly Bowl. From Gesamtkunsthandwerk, 2011. Te Papa (2011-0034-1/6-19).
Neil Dawson, Meld from the series: House Alterations, 1978. Purchased 1993 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds. Te Papa (1993-0034-2)
If there’s one thing all New Zealanders can relate to, it’s the ‘little wooden house’. That was Neil Dawson’s thinking when he made these art works in 1978. Disenchanted with what he called ‘self-indulgent’ sculpture, Dawson created these toy-like objects to reach a broad audience.
Neil Dawson, Glow. From the series: House Alterations, 1978. Purchased 1993 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds. Te Papa (1993-0034-3).