Over Here: America and the Auckland Art Gallery


exhibition Details

Over Here explores the link between the changes that occurred in New Zealand painting in the mid-20th century and the cultural influence of America in the post-World War II era. Coinciding with Modern Paints Aotearoa, it looks at how exposure to contemporary American art through publications, exhibitions, and visits by leading figures such as art critic Clement Greenberg had a profound effect on the local art scene.

As Ian Cooke explains in the Modern Paints Aotearoa catalogue, in the Cold War that developed between the US and the Soviet Union after World War II:

a key goal of the US government [was] to maintain good relationships with its allies ... Central to this was the role of propaganda, and art and culture were important aspects of this, not least because they were seen as valuable in countering Soviet characterisations of America as uncultured and materialistic.

In 1956 the US Information Service (USIS) facilitated a visit to New Zealand by Dr Grace McCann Morley, director of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA), who spent two weeks travelling to the four main centres. Morley was hosted at Auckland Art Gallery by Colin McCahon, then acting director, and assisted in organising his subsequent trip to the US in 1958. SFMoMA also helped bring to New Zealand audiences the seminal exhibition Painting from the Pacific: Japan, America, Australia, New Zealand (1961).

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York was also a key source of publications and touring exhibitions of contemporary American art. In 1955, it donated 70 of its catalogues to Auckland Art Gallery's research library. It sent a remarkable 11 exhibitions to New Zealand throughout the 1960s and 1970s, beginning with Abstract Watercolours by 14 Americans in 1966. Prominent American art critic Lucy Lippard accompanied the MoMA exhibition Some Recent American Art in 1974 and, writing in the Gallery Quarterly, Lippard raised local awareness to the possible political motivations behind such exhibitions.

Curated by
Catherine Hammond, Caroline McBride
Mezzanine level display case
Free entry

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