Making an exhibition of all things big and small

By Zoe Walker

Even everyday objects such as packaging and children's high chairs take on artistic meaning for an Auckland art curator.

Rob Garrett at home. Photo / Babiche Martens
Rob Garrett at home. Photo / Babiche Martens

Art and landscape will merge at this week's New Zealand Sculpture OnShore, curated again by Rob Garrett who has worked on the past two exhibitions.

Featuring the work of more than 100 artists and displayed at the grand Fort Takapuna, this year's biennial outdoor exhibition involves many sculptures of creatures big and small - from a life-sized elephant to chihuahuas - leading to it being described as "the year of the menagerie".

Garrett has selected both established and emerging artists to take part, reflecting his independent and longstanding approach to curation, having worked in visual arts as a curator, writer, strategist and government adviser, teacher and artist.

As well as Sculpture OnShore, his other recent projects include the Lost in a Dream exhibition at independent art gallery Snake Pit (on until November 10) and working with the Auckland Council on the Public Art Policy Development Project. Garrett says a third of the 109 artists taking part in this year's Sculpture OnShore are new faces, with 95 per cent of the works having been made especially for the event.

"There are some surprises such as a new neon work by Paul Hartigan, a delicate crochet installation, a life-sized "Kashin the elephant" made from driftwood, a pair of life-sized bling chihuahua and the sound of children singing from one of the historic gun emplacements ..."

He shares with us an eclectic and intriguing list of his current favourite things.

10 FAVOURITE THINGS

1. Tivoli radio range
The Tivoli radio range, designed by Henry Kloss, is admired for combining contemporary elegance with superb sound fidelity. My Model One is a treasured gift that usually sits on my bedside table for late night and first-thing listening.

2. Collecting art
Working with artists has many rewards; among them, collecting singular works by the up-and-coming. Chelsea Rothbart's Wax Workings - Sphere 2012 entered my collection from the artist's site-specific installation I curated earlier this year for Corner window gallery on Karangahape Rd. Rothbart has also made a new work for NZ Sculpture OnShore.

3. Chicco high chair
My 18-month daughter Isobel's Italian-designed high chair by Chicco is practical and compact for my apartment living. Self-clamping, the chair enables Isobel to sit at the kitchen island while I prepare her meals and allows us to sit side-by-side as we eat together.

4. Museum Brandhorst
One of my favourite buildings is Museum Brandhorst in Munich, designed by Sauerbruch Hutton architects. Opened in 2009 it houses the Udo and Anette Brandhorst Collection in galleries especially designed for the more than 700 works; including Cy Twombly's famed "Lepanto" series. The building is a simple oblong but, clad in 36,000 ceramic rods finished in 23 different coloured glazes, it becomes a magnificent sculpture in its own right.

5. Daewoong Kim tea bowl
The tea bowl by artist Daewoong Kim is a souvenir of a recent trip to Korea as a guest of the international academic programme of the Onggi Ceramics Expo in Ulsan. When I saw the handmade bowl in nearby Busan, I was attracted by the earthy, stone-like glaze, flecked with gold highlights; and then when I picked it up for the first time, was seduced by its pumice-like weightlessness: serene and unexpected.

6. Brics suitcase
With my compulsion to restrict myself to carry-on luggage only for trips away of up to a week, the strict enforcement of 7kg limits makes packing a challenge. My current accomplice in this obsession is my new, very light and colourful Brics wheeled suitcase, acquired on a recent stopover in Hong Kong.

7. Lost In a Dream catalogue
I recently curated an international exhibition at Snake Pit in Auckland called Lost in a Dream and we needed a catalogue to ensure the exhibition reached its international audience in a very tangible way. The beautiful catalogue design by young artist Ophelia King was a sophisticated and generous gift to the project.

8. Jiffy Rigi bags
Jiffy Rigi bags, made from recycled materials and very lightweight, understated and resilient, are my packaging of choice for mailing copies of the Lost in a Dream catalogue to my friends and contacts overseas.

9. Pfaueninsel Park
One of my favourite European parks is the tiny Unesco World Heritage Site, Pfaueninsel (Peacock Island), in the River Havel in Berlin-Wannsee, Germany. Designed in 1821 by Peter Joseph Lenne and Karl Friedrich Schinkel for Frederick William III, the island was transformed into a series of rambling, wild, seemingly casual vistas with glimpses of the river, meadows or the picturesque Lustschloss, a tiny castle designed as a ruin. The designers cleverly interspersed reassuring open areas and sight-lines with densely wooded groves so that the wanderer has the sense of being in boundless nature without ever getting lost in the wild.

10. Samsung Galaxy Note 2 phone
Samsung's new Galaxy Note 2 is the perfect mobile office for me, especially so with the large screen, which makes viewing videos and working on documents a breeze. So whether I'm working with artists on site, taking the bus or ferry between meetings or travelling overseas, I can keep abreast of messages, upload the latest posts to my website or social media and view artists' portfolios and proposals with ease.

* New Zealand Sculpture OnShore, November 8-18, Fort Takapuna, Devonport. Tickets $15. Proceeds from the exhibition will be donated to New Zealand Women's Refuge.

- NZ Herald

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