Kōrero: Post-object and conceptual art

Whārangi 3. Revival of interest, 1990s to 2000s

Ngā whakaahua me ngā rauemi katoa o tēnei kōrero


In the late 1990s interest in post-object art re-ignited. In 1998 Action Replay, Post-object Art (1998), a series of exhibitions curated by Robert Leonard (with Christina Barton, Wystan Curnow and John Hurrell), was staged at Artspace Auckland, Auckland Art Gallery and the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in New Plymouth. It was the first major attempt to re-present post-object art. This was followed by an exhibition and conference organised by Jennifer Hay and Andrew Drummond, Intervention: Post Object and Performance Art in New Zealand in 1970 and Beyond, in Christchurch in 2000.

Australian art historian Terry Smith included Jim Allen, Billy Apple, and Phil Dadson in his account of conceptual art in Australia and New Zealand for the international exhibition Global Conceptualisms: Points of Origin 1950s–1980s (Queens Museum of Art, New York, 1999). This was the first effort to understand post-object art as part of a global phenomenon.

A number of exhibitions with accompanying catalogues on important artists – Billy Apple, Jim Allen, Pauline Rhodes, Bruce Barber, Andrew Drummond, Di ffrench and Darcy Lange – were mounted.

Art artefacts

Although few examples of post-object art have survived, there is a rich archive of photographs, films, slides, videotapes, documents, drawings and other ephemeral by-products. Key repositories of these are Open Drawer, the post-object archive at the University of Auckland, the E. H. McCormick Research Library at Auckland Art Gallery, Ngā Taonga Sound and Vision and the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery. These resources, together with the personal archives of artists, are important means by which to assess post-object art’s legacy.

Gallery acquisitions

With the notable exception of Jim Allen’s ‘New Zealand environment no. 5’, purchased by the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in 1970, few examples of post-object art were acquired by museums in the 1970s. However, this changed from the 1990s. Peter Roche and Linda Buis’s 1980 performance ‘Museum piece’ and Jim Allen’s ‘Small worlds’ (1969) were acquired in 1994 and 2011 respectively by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. A reconstruction of Maree Horner’s ‘Diving board’ (1974/98) entered the collection of the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in 1998, and works from Adrian Hall’s 1971 exhibition Plasma Cast Iron Foam Company Presents Adrian Reginald Hall were acquired by Auckland Art Gallery in 2013.

Younger artists and curators

Post-object art also lived on in the revisionist activities of younger artists. Daniel Malone and Emma Bugden, for example, respectively remade works by Billy Apple and Andrew Drummond. Other emerging artists recalled the strategies and concerns of the 1960s and 1970s as they grappled with new social, political, and economic conditions.

A new generation of curators integrated first-generation post-object artists into their exhibitions. For example, Laura Preston included Bruce Barber in After the Situation: Moment Making (Artspace, 2007), Charlotte Huddleston invited Jim Allen to contribute to her performance series Mostly Harmless (Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, 2006), and Melanie Oliver involved David Mealing in her Wellington exhibition Every Now, & Then (Enjoy Public Art Gallery, 2006).

New venues and audiences

In the 2000s institutions such as Artspace in Auckland, Enjoy Public Art Gallery in Wellington, The Physics Room and its predecessor, South Island Art Projects (SIAP) in Christchurch and Blue Oyster Gallery in Dunedin fostered temporary projects that could be linked to post-object precedents. So did often short-lived artist-run spaces (from Teststrip in Auckland to The Honeymoon Suite in Dunedin) and large-scale temporary events like Christchurch’s Scape Biennial of Art in Public Space and the Auckland Triennial. Slowly a market emerged for historical examples of post-object art, and institutions began attending to their previous omissions.

Retrospective analysis

Post-object art has been included in two alternative histories of New Zealand art. The Aotearoa digital arts reader (2008), a compendium of commissioned essays, identified post-object art as both a precedent for and an instance of artists’ utilisation of new media. And the exhibition Peripheral Relations: Marcel Duchamp and New Zealand Art 1960–2012 (Adam Art Gallery, 2012) described a critical tradition of which post-object art was a key early moment.

Conceptual art

Since 2000 post-object art has been re-designated ‘conceptual art’ or ‘conceptualism’. These terms are now favoured as they have global currency, and allow post-object art to be located within a trajectory that connects art of the 1960s and the 1970s to present-day practices.

Me pēnei te tohu i te whārangi:

Christina Barton, 'Post-object and conceptual art - Revival of interest, 1990s to 2000s', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/mi/post-object-and-conceptual-art/page-3 (accessed 24 April 2024)

He kōrero nā Christina Barton, i tāngia i te 22 Oct 2014