John Hurrell – 29 April, 2023
In August 1981, Hunter—with help of others—presented in the Christchurch Arts Centre and Robert McDougall Art Gallery, a remarkable, week-long, performance and installation event/symposium called ANZART (Australia New Zealand art encounter) with funding from arts councils on both sides of the Tasman. This exchange was then an innovative idea, and Hunter envisaged a series of such projects that revolved around the notion of the littoral, the zone where Art and Life overlapped, like land and sea on a beach.
Ian Hunter obituary
A couple of days ago a friend casually mentioned to me the death of one of the most significant curators ever to work in Aotearoa. Ian Hunter was an Irish curator, exhibitions officer and artist with family connections in the NZ wine industry. He worked in Wellington’s National Gallery in the early eighties alongside other staff such as performance artist Andrew Drummond.
In August 1981 Hunter—with help of other artists such as Drummond, Stuart Griffiths, and Max Hailstone—presented in the Christchurch Arts Centre and Robert McDougall Art Gallery, a remarkable, fortnight-long, performance and installation event/symposium called ANZART (Australia New Zealand art encounter) with funding from arts councils on both sides of the Tasman. This exchange was then an innovative idea, and Hunter envisaged a series of such projects that revolved around the notion of the littoral, the zone where Art and Life overlapped, like land and sea on a beach. It presented what is often called ‘post-object art.’ Exhibition variations later occurred in Hobart, Auckland, Freemantle and Edinburgh.
Amongst the New Zealanders who participated in the first one were Pauline Rhodes, Colleen Anstey, From Scratch, critic Wystan Curnow, Di ffrench, Andrew Drummond, Terrence Handscomb, Warren Viscoe, Peter Roche and Linda Buis, Jacqueline Fraser, Morgan Jones and Will Collinson. Amongst the Australians were Mike Parr, Bonita Ely, Dom de Clario, Steve Turpie, David Jensz and Wendy Teakel, Graeme Davis, Ray Woollard, Claire Ferguson, Dale Frank, Jacek Grzelecki, Geoff Lloyd, Robert Owen, and visiting Europeans Marina and Ulay Abramovic. About forty artists participated in total. There were also satellite exhibitions in venues like the CSA.
Later in his life (around the turn of the millennium) Hunter moved to the Lake District in Cumbria in NW England, and with his wife Celia, became preoccupied with the last architectural installation (in Ambleside) of the great Swiss artist Kurt Schwitters, while also being involved in using art exhibitions to draw attention to the economic plight of the local sheep farmers.
The Christchurch ANZART project is immensely interesting now because of the political shifts in art communities that have occurred globally since. In my view, there has been a lessening of, a deterioration in, emotional stridency.
Currently, with the promotion of the notion of ‘safe spaces’ in art galleries there is a wide fear of any form of confrontation or clash of ideologies—even if calculatedly planned or anticipated. The concept of fiery public debate or noisy exchange of rival views (be they political, racial, sexual, religious, or anything else) within designated ‘forum’ art spaces has become abhorrent. A quiet, colourless environs—guided by assumptions of what is ‘healthy’—is now desired, with repressive sanitising templates put in place to create an ambience that is gormless and insipid. Contemporary art has become non-dangerous, inoffensive and excruciatingly dull.