The disgraceful destruction and displacement of old Auckland architecture of rich association and aesthetic importance - buildings that are themselves a part of the history of art in these islands - has been over recent years a phenomenon that nobody finally seems to have the power to halt. William Mason's St Paul's, demolished in Emily Place in 1885, Partington Windmill, the Regent cinema, Victoria Arcade, have long since gone; Mountfort's wooden St Marys Cathedral has now been wrenched from its proper home. The warmth and humanity of the past count for nothing.
In an article for this issue, Roger Blackley points out what scant protection many early buildings in fact enjoy. He counsels readers to keep a watchful eye on such places as the Ferry Buildings and The Supreme Court House!
Other leading pieces in the present number touch on contemporary constructions and wall-paintings in relation to public architecture. In a city of unbelievably mediocre and ugly post-War buildings the environs of the new Auckland School of Architecture are now something of an oasis. Gil Hanly's photographs record how rewardingly artists can contribute to the aesthetics of an environment created in collaboration with the architect.
In this area, the work of two of this country's most original sculptors - Neil Dawson and Chris Booth - is considered, respectively, by Peter Leech and Anne Kirker.
In a substantial essay, The Real and The Unreal in New Zealand Painting, Francis Pound discusses the relative significance of 'style' and 'truth to nature': taking as his 'pretext' a new edition of the influential book by Gordon H. Brown and Hamish Keith - An Introduction to New Zealand Painting.
Sculpture here has sometimes been neglected by writers and organisers of exhibitions. The Society of Sculptors, Painters and Associates was founded in the 'sixties to help promote the cause, initially, of sculptors (painters were later allowed to join); and recently held an exhibition at R.K.S. Art of the work of members over two decades. The chequered history of the Society will be surveyed in a forthcoming issue.
A founding member of the Society, the sculptor Molly Macalister (1920-1979), was given a memorial exhibition by The Auckland City Art Gallery in November (Art New Zealand published memories by two close friends, Colin McCahon and Una Platts in issue 19).
The Auckland City Art Gallery has opened some welcome new exhibition spaces. (Here is at least one handsome old Auckland building that the City has treated with the respect it deserves.) Art New Zealand will be looking at the Gallery's reconstruction programme in the next issue. At present one of the upstairs rooms is showing an informative exhibition of acquisitions of painting and sculpture over the past year.
It is good to see gaps in the Collection being filled . . . There do seem to have been one or two dubious purchases however. This matter of whom and when to purchase is of course a perennial problem. Taste is not an exact discipline. But it has seemed to many who have worked both inside and outside the public galleries that curators and directors could well sacrifice a little of their autonomy: and at least take some advice from the broader art milieu. When funds are limited, and such a small number of contemporary works are purchased, the responsibilities of a few look awesome! The loneliness of the long distance curator is a condition that we can only wonder at - as well as sympathise with.