Thinking about William McAloon's acquisitions

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Friday 13 April 2012
Ron Brownson

Everyone who worked with William McAloon appreciated his perceptive eye. William was a curator who could recognise quality in a nano-second. We laughed about this together as it sometimes surprised me to learn what he liked. He was as equally eloquent an advocate for Pat Hanly as he was for Jeffrey Harris. Jörg Immendorff’s dark visions delighted him, although the real-life notion of going to a nightclub like those which Immendorff adored was anathema to him. They were too louche.

Bill Sutton’s panoramic Plantation series of the 1980s fascinated William and I remember him saying you could smell their pine trees. Max Gimblett’s shaped panels of the early 1990s intrigued William. He discussed with me the significance of Eastern Buddhist gilded lacquer work in this period of Gimblett’s career. He spoke of Richard McWhannell as being one of New Zealand’s finest portrait painters, and he was spot on there.

I cannot list here every work of art which he brought to the Gallery’s collection, but I have selected some of the artworks that I immediately associate with his insight. You will note that William was wide-ranging in his choices.

A work that William was particularly proud to acquire is the Gordon Walters’ Untitled (Triptych) of 1993. He bought it for the Gallery shortly before the artist’s death in 1995. Walters was thrilled to have such a staunch example of his late painting enter the collection. William gave me a one-to-one outline of the way Untitled operates as a triptych. He spoke superbly when discussing art he was passionate about. It was at these moments when you understood that William really looked at art. He never looked at art’s ‘surface’; he looked subcutaneously. What an eye you had, William!