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October 5, 2009 | by  | in Visual Arts |
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It’s back!

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Yes, after eleven long months the City Gallery finally re-opened its doors on Sunday 27 September to queues of Wellingtonians eager to experience its transformation. The Gallery’s debut exhibition, which takes up the majority of the multiple new exhibition spaces, is by the famed Yayoi Kusama. The kooky 80-year-old Japanese artist, who spent her early artistic career with the likes of Andy Warhol, presents a number of full-room installations from the second half of the twentieth century as well as two works created especially for the City Gallery’s reopening. The Gallery describes the 1960s Kusama as “an iconoclast, a mover and shaker in the American counter-culture of that time, organising public happenings as well as making influential work in a period when significant changes and innovations were taking place in art practice.”

These days, due to her age, Kusama is unable to travel long distances, so instead sent a small collection of her followers to post her trademark dots throughout the inside and outside of the City Gallery, on walls, floors and ceilings. Sunday’s eager viewers were not disappointed, treated to a dramatic display of vivid colours, inflated forms and—as promised—an overwhelming amount of dots from the self-confessed “modern Alice in Wonderland”.

In addition to Kusama’s exhibition, the gallery’s redeveloped Michael Hirschfeld Gallery and new Roderick and Gillian Deane Gallery present work by Regan Gentry and Ngaahina Hohaia, respectively. Gentry’s contribution, Make Way, is a twelve-metre motorway bypass made completely out of cane basketwork. It is the first work to grace a room dedicated to exhibiting the creations of Wellington-based artists and designers. The neighbouring Deane Gallery, in which Parihaka artist Ngaahina Hohaia’s work is currently residing, will provide a “constant profiling of contemporary practice by Māori and Pacific Island artists, with a national focus.” Hohaia presents hundreds of intricately embroided poi, an impressive, detailed response to the interactions between Europeans and Maori during the nineteenth century.

The City Gallery’s redevelopment sees the Gallery take a much-needed step towards international standards and, along with the renovations planned for its Auckland counterpart, is an encouraging sign for our national art scene.

Be sure to note that a $10 admission charge now applies, but in order to give everyone the opportunity to experience this new artistic treasure trove, admission will be free every second Wednesday from 7 October.

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