Time-based art at Auckland Art Gallery

Article Detail

Thursday 26 June 2014
Brooke Randal


Assessing the physical condition of Ascents and Descents in Realtime, 2008 by Alex Monteith

The Marylyn Mayo Internship at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki offers training and work experience for recent graduate and postgraduate students who intend to pursue a career in art galleries. As the 2014 Marylyn Mayo Intern I will be conducting a comprehensive survey of time-based artwork in the Auckland Art Gallery and Chartwell Trust collections.

My role is to scope the collection, assess the condition of the artworks and prepare a methodology for adequate documentation of future acquisitions. This includes exploring maintenance issues and working with the registration team to insure all relevant information is entered into Vernon, the Gallery’s collection management system.

I am currently undertaking a Masters of Cultural Materials Conservation at the University of Melbourne. Although I am interested in all aspects of conservation, I would like to direct my studies towards the conservation of modern and contemporary art. My thesis will compare strategies employed by international organisations when collecting, storing and presenting time-based artworks.

Prior to commencing postgraduate study I was a practising artist making installation art with an electronic and/or digital component. I also have extensive voluntary experience working within contemporary art organisations, such as Gertrude Contemporary in Melbourne, and artist-run spaces, including Format in Adelaide.

The term ‘time-based art’ refers to artworks that are dependent on time for the maturation or completion of the experience. Relevant media includes audio, video, film and installation art. Auckland Art Gallery currently holds close to 300 time-based artworks. Although artwork is evenly distributed across production year, the acquisition of time-based artwork continues to grow. This is greatly influenced by the Chartwell Trust’s collection, which is cared for by the Gallery.

As shown in the chart below, 39% of all time-based artworks in the Auckland Art Gallery and Chartwell Trust collections is digital. In this context, the term ‘digital’ is used to describe audio on CD, single and multi-channel video installations. Although some work may have specific installation instructions, the presentation of audio and video work is fluid and greatly influenced by curatorial direction.


Distribution of time-based art

While 13% of all time-based artwork is analogue (film, slides and records), 15% is sculptural with an analogue and/or digital component. Generally, work of this nature is dependent on specific equipment and/or technology. Artworks such as Drunk Chimp, 2002 by Ronnie van Hout and Landscape Painting 4, 2011 by Jake Walker pose difficult questions regarding long-term preservation and access.


Ronnie van Hout, Drunk Chimp, 2002


Jake Walker, Landscape Painting 4, 2011

With the upcoming exhibition Light Show, 11 October 2014 – 8 February 2015, many of you may be interested in Auckland Art Gallery’s collection of light-based artwork. Auckland Art Gallery holds close to 60 artworks in which light, an essentially ephemeral material, plays a pivotal role in audience perception. Currently, Objects Conservator Annette McKone is surveying the oeuvre of Bill Culbert, one of New Zealand’s leading artists and the country’s representative at the 2013 Venice Biennale.


Bill Culbert, Flat Out, 2009

The final 12% of time-based artwork in the Auckland Art Gallery and Chartwell Trust collections are those with an electronic component, such as Geographer (2), 1995, by Paul Cullen, and those that are not easily classified. Crystal Enclosure, 1985, by Alan Sonfist, which examines the growth of crystals on an acrylic sheet, is an example.


Paul Cullen, Geographer (2), 1995

Image credits:

Ronnie van Hout
Drunk Chimp 2002 
mixed media 
Chartwell Collection
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, 2002

Jake Walker
Landscape Painting 4 2011
paint on laptop 
Chartwell Collection
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, 2011

Bill Culbert
Flat Out 2009
wood, glass, fluorescent tubes and electrical cable
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki 
gift of the Patrons of the Auckland Art Gallery, 2009

Paul Cullen
Geographer (2) 1995
metal chair frame, globe, motor, electric cord
Chartwell Collection
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, 2010