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Source: Ngā Puhipuhi o Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington Art Collection

Te Pātaka Toi Adam Art Gallery launches its mid-winter season with Back of House, a suite of exhibitions and projects that draw on and reveal what normally lies behind the scenes in the public display of art.

Back of House consists of three discrete projects: Sophia Smolenski: Offering It Up; Wendy Bornholdt: Studioland; and Aro Toi/Art Collection in Focus: A Gift, A Celebration, An Invitation. These are accompanied by a “live” archiving project and a curated public programme. Back of Houseturns the tables on the usual workings of the art gallery to blur distinctions between artists and technicians; makers and thinkers; display items and the tools, props, and packaging supporting them; and the art works and the paperwork that surrounds them. The exhibition is an opportunity to reveal and talk about working processes and conditions.

In Offering It Up, Sophia Smolenski uses her day job as a mount-maker and exhibition preparator as the starting point for an ambitious multi-part installation that features works by 22 contemporary New Zealand artists she has invited to make items in response to mounts she first constructed for objects in her personal possession.

Wendy Bornholdt’s Studioland is a new gathering of her photographic prints that have emerged over the last decade in response to her sorting and archiving of drawings amassed over her career and stored in her studio. She re-imagines the activities of cataloguing, organising, and storing art works as new ground for making art and the occasion for meditating on the workings of memory.

Aro Toi/Art Collection in Focus: A Gift, A Celebration, An Invitation, curated by Sophie Thorn, Curator Collections, profiles three new works by Cora-Allan recently acquired for Ngā Puhipuhi o Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington Art Collection, to explore the techniques and materials associated with making Niuean hiapo (barkcloth made from the mulberry tree). Placed alongside these works is a large ngatu, a decorated Tongan barkcloth gifted to Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington by the University of the South Pacific in 1999. This will serve as the starting point for a creative response from New Zealand-born Tongan artist, ‘Uhila Moe Langi Nai that will unfold as part of the Gallery’s future programme.

Sophie Thorn says that this will be the first time in more than a decade that the Tongan ngatu will be on public display. “We see this as an opportunity to find out more about the ‘unknown Tongan village collective’ listed as the object’s makers. But we also want to invite fresh perspectives to lay the groundwork for future collecting. This will ensure the ongoing relevance of the University’s art collection and the Gallery’s work in caring for it.”

In addition, the Kirk Gallery will be utilised for a “live” archiving project where material from and for the New Zealand Art Research & Study Centre will be sorted and re-housed. For the first two weeks, Adam Art Gallery Director Christina Barton will lead this activity as she sorts her office of 28 years and transfers relevant archives and publications that will be added to the Centre’s collections. She will be treating this process as a live means to reflect on her time as a lecturer, curator, writer, and editor as she prepares to leave her post. She will be assisted by Adam Art Gallery Intern for 2023, Sally McMath, and Master’s student Dee Hehewerth, both of whom will bring their own interests to bear on the contents of the Gallery’s study centre.

“I’m daunted by the prospect of sorting all the material I’ve accumulated over the years,” says Director Christina Barton. “But making the process public will allow me to engage with the many people I’ve worked with, so that my faulty memory can be corrected and enlarged and I can enrich the history of this remarkable institution.”

Exhibition details

Back of House

Sophia Smolenski: Offering It Up

With Vanessa Arthur, Simon Attwooll, Caitlin Devoy, Karl Fritsch, Jon Geehan, Catherine Griffiths, Turumeke Harrington, Emily Hartley-Skudder, Jay Hutchinson, Ana Iti, Sam Kelly, Jennifer Laracy, Dave Marshall, Dane Mitchell, Moniek Schrijer, Laurie Steer, Kereama Taepa, Chloe Rose Taylor, Jasmine Te Hira, Tjalling de Vries, Lisa Walker, and John Ward Knox.  

This project has been generously funded by Creative New Zealand Toi Aotearoa.
Wendy Bornholdt: Studioland
Aro Toi/Art Collection in Focus: A Gift, A Celebration, An Invitation
With Tongan Village Collective, Cora-Allan, and ‘Uhila Moe Langi Nai.  
Curated by Sophie Thorn, Curator Collections

Te Pātaka Toi Adam Art Gallery
12.08.23 – 29.10.23

Opening hours
Te Pātaka Toi Adam Art Gallery
Tuesday–Sunday 11 am–5 pm

Group visits are welcome.


Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington
Gate 3, Kelburn Parade
Wellington 6140