Tuesday, 31 December 2013

The exhibition that will change Christchurch forever










“Rise” at the Canterbury Museum (and beyond with the “Big Walls” component of the show) will be Christchurch's most influential art exhibition since an alternative exhibition to the Canterbury Society of Arts annual show was put on by “The Group” in 1927.

This single exhibition will inspire a transformation of the visual culture of Christchurch in the years to come. The excitement surrounding "Rise" is not just the sheer joy of seeing for real superb artworks from the art movement that will define our generation but also the way that the creative sails of the new Christchurch are being filled with an inspirational gale.

The Canterbury Museum director Anthony Wright should be knighted for taking the bold step of hosting “Rise”.  Nurturing our community through a strengthening of our culture in a time of need - it's a landmark step in the evolution of the role of the modern museum.  

With the art gallery out of commission and large spaces hard to find hosting "Rise" at Canterbury Museum shows a brave and open minded attitude about the museum’s role in the Christchurch of today.  “Rise” is going to be such a momentous event because it is about the people who are going to see it as much as being about the artists whose work is on show.  Street art is the punk rock of art, the movement that inspires a generation of people to take up an art form because through the lens of something new they catch a glimpse of their own inner artist.  Street art is accessible, inclusive - and as will be shown in Christchurch post "Rise", transformative.

The Oi YOU team have clearly built a professional businesslike organisational structure to put on a blockbuster like “Rise” (7500 visitors in the first few days). With a history of two successful shows in organisers George Shaw and Shannon Webster’s hometown of Nelson, then taking their collection to Sydney and Adelaide the unique catalyst aspect of the event has grown using an exhibition of their superb personal collection of street art as the occasion for local and international street artists to complete works commissioned specially for the show.

Essentially it's the attitude of street art that is just so universally appealing. It was the spilling over of the exhibition into the main museum that tickled me, whimsical wordplay, sly commentary and placing of objects springing from an intelligent cultural awareness.  The mysterious Milton Springsteen’s paintings were fine examples of how you can subvert and transform most effectively if you first take the time to gain a deep appreciation and understanding of your source material.

To see prints by NZ artists such as Component’s fishing boy “Life is a Lottery” looking perfectly at ease next to Banksy is as thrilling for a New Zealander as having Lorde at the top of the global charts. 

Street art will save Christchurch from blandness in a rebuild driven by engineers rather than imagineers.  Sofles piece behind where our gallery and warehouses were on Hereford St is particularly poignant for us, it’s that mix of skill, imagination and connectedness that makes art meaningful over the long term, we talk of finding a print that “resonates” with a customer, it’s so much more useful and deeper than finding what someone simply “likes”.

This is the only exhibition I am insisting my non arty friends go to see.  I want every teacher to arrange a class trip (Rise runs until 23 March 2014 so there is plenty of time in the new school year). Every Christchurch person who doesn’t think they like art should go too - as street art is the perfect gateway drug that can turn people on to how much fun and enjoyment there is in the world of art.   As Banksy himself has shown if you can reach the market of people who don’t buy prints this is many times larger than the market of people who regularly do, likewise “Rise” is the way to engage with people put off by the thicket of theory that envelopes contemporary art. 

The only negative is that annoying feeling of the world discovering your favourite band!  Street art is the most exciting thing in the art world right now and to have “Rise” transforming your hometown in a globally significant way is only just a little bit short of unbelievable.   Street art is the art movement of now and because of the unique situation of Christchurch post earthquake “Rise” will be a pivotal show when art history grads of 2114 are researching the impact of this exciting art movement across the world.

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