Sunday, 15 November 2009

The Cabinet Makers: New Zealand Prime Ministers

The Cabinet Makers: New Zealand Prime Ministers
19 November 2009 to 10 February 2010
Shed 11 Wellington Waterfront 10.30 – 4.30 daily admission free
Curated by Gavin McLean, an exhibition of NZ Prime Ministers from Henry Sewell to the present day: portraits, busts, cartoons and photographs along with personal memorabilia, public gifts, and historical curios.

Included in this exhibition is my triptych portrait of Michael Joseph Savage, first Labour Prime Minister and founder of the Welfare State.

A scent bottle depicting former Prime Minister Helen Clark might be an unexpected item in an exhibition of New Zealand prime ministers, but historian/curator Gavin McLean provides a personal as well as an official context to The Cabinet Makers, a new exhibition at the NZ Portrait Gallery. It will be opened by the current prime minister the Hon. John Key on November 18th and shows until February 10, 2010.

“This is the first time a complete gallery of premiers and prime ministers has been collected and shown in a public space” he says. “Every individual office holder is represented from Henry Sewell‘s leadership 160 years ago to John Key. Viewed together, they take us on a pictorial journey through our political history by way of painted portraits, photographs and cartoons, and demonstrate the nation’s progress from colonial dependence under Victorian social values, to democratic independence and a liberated culture.”

Far from a conventional parade of politicians, the images frequently differ from what we traditionally expect of formal portraiture. Through a selection of less formal photographs, like “Kiwi Keith” Holyoake packing his own bags for an overseas tour, to the Seddon family at home, a more personal side of our political leaders emerges. Along with the images, is a selection of official and personal memorabilia which reveal clues to their lives. While the Helen Clark scent bottle (an official APEC gift), may be an extreme example, a record cover featuring “Big Norm” Kirk, a table top depicting Richard John Seddon in 875 pieces of native timber, and a delicate miniature of Sir George Grey as a child shown with his parents, all add personal perspectives to political stories. Busts and sculptures, including that of Norman Kirk by New Zealand sculptor Tony Stones, historical and contemporary cartoons and details of official residences, add a wealth of context to the story of our political leadership.

Gavin McLean, Senior Historian at the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, is the author of The Governors: New Zealand’s Governors and Governors-General (2006), and is currently preparing a history of New Zealand prime minister-ship in conjunction with this exhibition.

The Cabinet Makers: New Zealand Prime Ministers curated by Gavin McLean

NZ Portrait Gallery November 18 2009 to February 10, 2010

Shed 11 Wellington Waterfront 10.30 – 4.30 daily admission free

(04) 472 8874