On 22 July 2022 we celebrate Jim Allen’s 100th birthday. Soldier, sailor, educator and trailblazing artist – this display from our archives celebrates the remarkable life and career of one of New Zealand’s most significant artists.
Regarded as one of the most influential art educators of his generation in Aotearoa and Australia, Allen was a vital force in shaping the local art scene. In 1952, Allen was employed by New Zealand’s Department of Education as part of the Gordon Tovey-led art education initiative. He was particularly influenced by the teaching of Elwyn Richardson, which informed his approach to education as head of sculpture at Elam, University of Auckland and as the founding director of the Sydney College of the Arts. Credited with rejuvenating Elam’s sculpture department, Allen fostered a series of student-led initiatives which spurred the development of a new local contemporary art.
Alongside his teaching roles, Allen forged a pioneering art practice. After initially working with traditional media, a year’s sabbatical in 1968 in the United Kingdom, Europe and America precipitated a radical shift: conceptual performances and materials such as plastic sheeting and barbed wire were incorporated into his practice, signalling a post-object approach to art that was unprecedented in Aotearoa.
Thirty years after their first showing, many of Allen’s seminal performances have been restaged, connecting a new generation of gallery visitors and artists with his ground-breaking practice.
Image credit: Unknown photographer, Jim Allen with some of his sculptures (Crucifixes), 1967, E H McCormick Research Library, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki
- Curated by
- Caroline McBride, Tamsyn Bayliss
- Research Library Display Case Mezzanine Level