‘Great first weekend’ for art, cultural institutions

On display . . . Dunedin-born artist Colin McCahon's oil on gesso on board painting Otago Peninsula (1946-49), from the Dunedin Public Libraries Collection (Rodney Kennedy bequest), is part of a showcase of the artist's work at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. IMAGE: COURTESY OF THE COLIN MCCAHON RESEARCH AND PUBLICATION TRUST

Dunedin’s major public art and cultural institutions reopened their doors on Saturday, welcoming visitors with new processes in place under Covid-19 Alert Level 2 restrictions.

Dunedin City Council director of museum and gallery Cam McCracken, who oversees Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Toitu Otago Settlers Museum and Lan Yuan Garden, said the institutions had a “great first weekend”.

“We didn’t have quite as many visitors as we normally would at this time of year, but it was great to have the doors open and be welcoming people inside once more,” Mr McCracken said.

“We are following the government’s guidelines, and people seem to understand how to negotiate public spaces in this post-lockdown world.”

At the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, several major exhibitions which opened just before lockdown are being extended until October-November to give the public a chance to view them.

These shows include “A Land of Granite”, works by Dunedin-born and trained artist Colin McCahon; “Succession 20”, works by Auckland-based artist Yona Lee; and “Additions and Alteration”, works by Wellington-based artist Emily Hartley-Skudder.

Mr McCracken said the McCahon exhibition celebrated the Dunedin origins of one of New Zealand’s most influential artists.

McCahon went to Maori Hill School and trained at the Dunedin School of Art when it was in the King Edward Tech building (now King Edward Court), eventually moving to Nelson and Auckland.

“We wanted to reclaim him and showcase how the Otago landscape was influential in his development as an artist,” Mr McCracken said.

Lee’s exhibition showcased works exploring elements of private, domestic and communal spaces.

Hartley-Skudder’s show brought a quirky take on domestic surroundings, pieces interacting with important works in the DPAG’s contemporary collection.

“It’s exciting to be able to return to our core business people with these exciting artists,” Mr McCracken said.

The DPAG, Toitu and Chinese Garden were following Covid-19 protocols, so visitors would notice some changes such as restrictions on numbers and contact tracing protocols.

Many of the interactive “hands on” elements of the visitor experience, including child play areas and activities, would not be available.

Opening hours for all three institutions were also being reduced to 10am to 4pm for now, to allow time for extra cleaning and preparation at the end of each day.

The gardens at Lan Yuan Dunedin Chinese Garden were “looking great”, and visiting would be a tranquil experience on sunny autumn days, Mr McCracken said.