Nga mihi nui ki a koutou,
Tena koutou, tena koutou tena ra tatou katoa
I'd like to welcome you all to tonight's launch of English, Colonial, Modern and Maori by Dr Anna Crighton.
Former Parliamentary colleagues Eugenie Sage, Megan Woods and the Hon Jim Anderton; present and former City Councillors; distinguished guests one and all.
Could I also acknowledge Louise Walton from my office who has worked tirelessly to bring this event together and also the Court Florist in sponsoring the wine for the evening (we're on a tight budget in Council now and we cannot stretch to such things).
The Court Florist also composed the flower arrangements to coincide with the title of the book; one arrangement English, the other Maori. And in the larger arrangement they are mixed together symbolising our bi-cultural nationhood at the foundation of the multicultural society we have become.
A glance at the guest list for this evening reveals the breadth and the depth of our city's arts community – artists, historians, directors, curators, preservationists, advocates and other supporters of the arts doing wonderful work in our city.
And what an occasion to bring us all together – the launch of English, Colonial, Modern and Maori: The Changing Faces of the Robert McDougall Art Gallery, Christchurch, New Zealand, 1932-2002 written by a former councillor and, for as long as I have known her, a champion of the arts and our city's heritage, Dr Anna Crighton.
It is absolute pleasure to host the launch here – although I will express the sadness I'm sure we all feel that we could not be in the Robert McDougall building itself or in our city's Art Gallery – Te Puna O Waiwhetu – named for an artesian spring onsite, which is no doubt part of the reason that we are not there, this wellspring of star-reflecting waters.
I'd especially like to acknowledge Tim Seay this evening.
He is the grandson of Robert McDougall, and had it not been for his grandfather's extremely generous gift of £26,000, it is doubtful that a civic art gallery would have been built for many decades after 1932, because of the depression, followed by the second World War and its aftermath.
I have enjoyed a sneak preview of the book, although I haven't yet read it all. But I have read enough to know I am going to enjoy this 'cultural biography' of the 70 years during which the Robert McDougall Art Gallery was Christchurch's civic art gallery.
What a great achievement, and a wonderful resource, both for art historians and the wider public.
I note examiners of your PhD thesis from which your book is taken have highlighted the broad appeal of your book.
Professor Paul Tapsell from Otago University describes it as a "fascinating account, highlighting key historical players, their community interplays and how each has meaningfully helped shape today's art world".
He also said it was an "original contribution to knowledge in the field of art history, both nationally and internationally".
It is a story of personalities - the directors and curators who fought for the gallery and the artists represented in it.
It is also more than just a tale of a single gallery's collection: it reveals concerns and patterns that will be familiar to galleries everywhere, and provides a unique perspective on New Zealand's cultural development: English, Colonial, Modern & Maori. The title captures the essence of that journey.
Professor Simon Knell, School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester, said of your book:
'It provides a valuable insight into how a gallery's collections and exhibitions – its voice – are shaped by a complex mosaic of influences.'
'The particular focus of the thesis on selection and presentation cultures gives the thesis an innovative aspect that needs to inform gallery research more widely.'
'The transition to biculturalism is captured excellently.'
I have to read from the foreword by Dr Mark Stocker, Anna's principal supervisor, who encouraged her to use her insider knowledge as the registrar of the Gallery for more than a decade, alongside what he described as her dedication to the rigours of archival research. This is the clue to the treat you are in for:
"On the one hand the Gallery conforms to a 'Britsh World' model, but at the same time its history and identity raise distinctive and fascinating cultural issues that are very much those of Canterbury and of Aotearoa New Zealand. If there are heroes in the piece, then they are the dedicated, cultured people of Christchurch, while the chief villains (or at least philistines) are the members of the Christchurch City Council."
Turning down the gift of the McCahon in 1960 would have to be up there in terms of the then Council's lack of vision for the future; an act almost equalled by the vote not to recommend Pleasure Garden by Frances Hodgkins for the collection.
But I am not going to spoil the book for you. Your pleasure awaits.
Anna, on behalf of the people of Christchurch, I wish to thank you for your commitment to recording our city's art heritage and history for future generations.
It is truly a gift, a taonga, that will help us understand where we have come from and who we are today channelled through the unique perspectives that you have applied to your research.
Congratulations on your achievement once again.
No reira, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.