9 Aug 2020

Kit Toogood on a new future for the Auckland Art Gallery

From Standing Room Only, 4:49 pm on 9 August 2020

The Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki has established of a new advisory committee to look at the future of the gallery as the world changes rapidly around it, with the chair saying the Covid-19 lockdown was a "fantastic opportunity for creativity".

Nathan Coley's work 'A Place Beyond Belief' at Auckland Art Gallery

Nathan Coley's work 'A Place Beyond Belief' at Auckland Art Gallery Photo: Suppled / Auckland Art Gallery

The committee includes representatives of the gallery, other Auckland institutions as well as former prime minister Helen Clark and arts patron Dame Jenny Gibbs.

Retired High Court Judge Kit Toogood is the chair of the new committee.

He said it was lovely because "it is all care and no responsibility".

"We're not a board in the conventional sense."

Regional Facilities Auckland (RFA)'s board is the board for the gallery and its director Kirsten Paisley reports to the RFA.

"Our role as a tūpuna or grandparent is to advise and mentor and to advocate for the gallery in their dealings with other organisations."

He said the committee was diverse and was there to help the gallery management.

"The RFA just has too many things taking up its time and attention. Our role is to step in and do all the easy bits of governance which is to be supportive and provide advice and counselling ... that's a really nice place to be in."

Toogood said the committee would have been created whether the challenges of Covid existed or not.

He said the gallery had history and was worth visiting just for the experience and the brilliant architecture.

The aim was to provide an experience for all New Zealanders about the country's history and culture.

"The gallery is working very hard to develop across a whole range of media."

New Zealand was fortunate to be able to open the doors of the gallery after the lockdown, Toogood said.

"Lockdown was a fantastic opportunity for creativity," he said citing the orchestra musicians playing from their homes, and the Auckland Writers' Festival going online.

"In the gallery, you have the opportunity to control your own experience."

Despite hitting a financial wall due to the cut in overseas visitors, he said the gallery was well equipped to continue on.

"There is a significant amount of support that comes from patrons, Auckland Art Gallery Foundation, from various philanthropic sources - people are incredibly generous, and have been for many years, and I don't expect that to stop.

"While it is going to be hard ... fortunately, we don't have to worry, our committee does have to worry about finding the money as it does about helping the management to find the money and support themselves and look at new ways of doing things which don't necessarily cost as much as they might have in the past."