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Christchurch City Council Media Release 12 June 2002

A Fond Farewell, But No Time For A Holiday

50,000 metres of bubblewrap is just one of the items on the shopping list of things needed to move the city’s art collection from the Robert McDougall Art Gallery to the new Christchurch Art Gallery, which opens in April 2003. During the transition period Gallery staff will be busier than ever before, managing the shift of 5,500 art works from their present home to their new one, just down the road.

The doors of the Robert McDougall will close on Sunday 16 June, exactly seventy years since they were first opened. To mark the closing, the Gallery is putting on a special trade show, to allow the people of Christchurch and Canterbury to bid farewell to the Robert McDougall. The show, Up From the Basement, will be centred on the behind-the-scenes work involved in a modern, professional art gallery.

Gallery Director Tony Preston says the closing of the Robert McDougall, although tinged with some sadness, marks another significant step towards the completion of the much-anticipated new Gallery.

“During its seventy year history, the Robert McDougall Art Gallery has become a vibrant and vital element in the national cultural arena – a proud tradition we will continue and extend in the new Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu.

“The Robert McDougall Art Gallery, though a handsome building, has become increasingly impractical, limiting the number of works and scale of exhibitions we were able to bring to the people of Canterbury.”

The purpose-built Gallery, donated to the city by Robert Ewing McDougall, was first opened at 3pm on Thursday 16 June 1932, before a crowd of more than 500 local people and official dignitaries. However the building’s limited size and lack of a number of amenities meant that over 30 years ago it was seen as “a matter of urgency” that there be a replacement for the Robert McDougall Art Gallery.

The new Gallery will have almost 3,000 square metres of exhibition space – over four times that within the Robert McDougall.

The weekend’s events will include demonstrations of art conservation, frame making and gilding, crate making and design and installation of exhibitions, as well offering the chance for the public to talk to the curators and Friends, and to find out what Registrars do.

“Moving from the Robert McDougall to the new site is a very involved process. During the closing period our whole focus will be on preparations for the new Gallery”, says the Manager of Finance and Building Services, Bronwyn Simes.

 “Up from the Basement offers an excellent opportunity for the public to get an idea of what will be going on and the depth of professional skill involved in running a modern art gallery.”

“From: ‘how do they get the gilded frames to look so gorgeous?’ and ‘how do they choose which paintings to buy for the Collection?’ to ‘why can’t there be flowers in the Gallery?’ and ‘how will you move the paintings?’ we are hoping to cover a great number of questions – giving the public a unique insight into work done at the Gallery.”

The Friends of the Gallery, who have made a significant contribution to the fundraising campaign for the new Gallery, are also playing a part in the weekend. A gold coin trail, forming a path of gold coins from the main entrance of the McDougall Art Gallery to the new Christchurch Art Gallery site on Montreal Street, will raise funds for the purchase of equipment for a new Children’s Art Programme.

The public fundraising campaign has played a major part in the success of the new development, with over $14.5 million raised for the new Christchurch Art Gallery.

Of course, no party would be complete without music. As part of the celebrations, and in keeping with the broad variety of artistic activity the Robert McDougall has seen over the years, Christchurch musicians will provide entertainment throughout the weekend. Artists include students from Christ’s College, the Christchurch School of Music Christchurch Youth Jazz Ensemble and the Christchurch School of Music Stage Jazz Band, the Hagley Singers, the Villa Maria College Choir, Phoenix Rising harmony quartet, Malcolm McNeill and Scaramella, singing Italian Madrigals.

“We feel this is a very fitting way to mark the transition from the old Gallery to the new,” says Tony Preston. “I hope we will be able to see – and thank – our many supporters at the weekend’s events.”

The festivities begin at 10am on Saturday 15 June, with the Robert McDougall’s doors finally closing at 4pm on Sunday 16 June, following a formal closing speech from Christchurch Mayor Garry Moore.

For more information: Gerard Blank or Jo Scully - Glass Tower Strategic Communications. Phone 03 365 1445 or 021 384 069

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