Jim Allen


Arena by Jim Allen

Artwork Detail

Community and Arena were displayed together in 1970 at Barry Lett Galleries in Auckland, at the opening of the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in 1970, then again at the Mildura Sculpture Triennial in 1973. There are also archival images of Allen setting up Arena in the car park of the Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland, while he was Associate Professor of Sculpture. The forms feel improvisational, open, as if Allen really was sketching out his thinking. They reflect nothing of the permanence of his public commissions from the same period. They were made the year after his significant new installation Small Worlds, and represent another leap for the artist into a less formal sculptural practice.

Discussing Community, Allen has said he was living in a state housing complex at the time in Auckland, and was thinking about the effects of living in close proximity. He recalled the confrontations, verbal and physical and the difficulties that people and families had – how the lives of others are so visible in these circumstances. The small triangulated shelters, are both neatly ordered and vulnerable, not designed to weather extremities of our island climate. By contrast, Arena which has often been exhibited in tandem with Community, is understood by the artist as a diagram of an exterior human form, with the different levels of the structure reaching knee, chest and head height. At the centre lies a soft bunch of clothing. Here the structure is analogous to the exterior we reveal to the world. With the abrasive materials of barbed wire and galvanised steel Allen also implies that reaching that human interior can be complex, layered and entangling.

Jim Allen
Production date
galvanised steel, barbed wire, rope, clothing donated by friends and family
2000 x 2000 x 2000 mm
Credit line
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of the artist, 2021
Accession no
Other ID
X2018/72 Former Exhibition Number
Copying restrictions apply
New Zealand Art
Display status
Not on display

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