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Gallery Welcomes Two Millionth Visitor

1 July 2008

Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna O Waiwhetu welcomed its two millionth visitor today - just five years after opening in the heart of the city’s cultural precinct.

The Gallery has also ended the financial year ahead of its visitor numbers target, set as part of the Paradigm Shift Five Year Strategic Plan for the Gallery.  The target was for the Gallery to host 375,000 visitors for the year and Monday night’s final count showed it had exceeded that - and recorded a total of 389,089.

The largest art institution in the South Island, Christchurch Art Gallery replaced the Robert McDougall Art Gallery as the home of one of New Zealand’s most important public art collections in May 2003.  Less than two years ago it welcomed new Director Jenny Harper, who has embraced the challenge of emotionally and intellectually connecting people with art - and most particularly the people of Christchurch.

“I am absolutely thrilled with the result for the year,” says Jenny Harper.  “It has been an exciting time for the Gallery with the total visitor number being up, the two millionth visitor coming through and also the very successful Morris exhibition.”

Measuring art gallery visitor numbers as a percentage of the city’s population puts the Christchurch Art Gallery’s achievement ahead of those recorded in cities like Adelaide, Sydney and Manchester.  However, Jenny Harper urges caution for future visitor number increases.

"Our primary priority in the future is to ensure a balance between the numbers of visitors and fulfilling public expectations of a good quality art experience. Longer-term increases in visitor numbers will depend on things like the gallery’s ability to improve the overall quality of our collections; maintain and market a lively programme of quality exhibitions and publications; and increase our ability to attract major international loans and exhibitions from time-to-time,” she says.

The Paradigm Shift target for the year ending 30 June 2009 is 400,000 visitors.  “That will be helped by some fantastic exhibitions we’ve got coming up - like the Daniel Crooks exhibition of spectacular digital video works which opens in two weeks’ time; and exhibitions of works by Sir Miles Warren and Rita Angus which will be staged next year.”

“Much credit must be given to Jenny Harper and her fantastic team for the turnaround in the art gallery,” says Michael Aitken, Christchurch City Council’s General Manager of Community Services.  “We continue to receive positive feedback and encouragement from the local arts community; residents and visitors alike.

“Jenny’s appointment as Commissioner for the Venice Biennale is further proof of the high regard in which she is held nationally and internationally; and Christchurch is very fortunate to have her in the Director’s role. “


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