Artworks’ missing link

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Invercargill Public Art Gallery manager/curator Sarah Brown takes a closer look at a portrait featured in the new Untitled, Undated, Unknown exhibition.

THERE’S an element of mystery surrounding the latest exhibition at the Invercargill Public Art Gallery.

Untitled, Undated, Unknown features 34 works from the gallery’s collection – and each has some information missing from its records relating to the exhibition’s title.

Manager/curator Sarah Brown said there were many reasons why an artwork could be recorded as being untitled, undated or by an unknown artist.

This was a challenge that many collections faced, she said.

“One of the things we wanted to show was that all collections have an element of ambiguity.”

Brown said some of the ambiguity came from when the works entered a collection, as they could already be missing information. Some of the information was lost over time because of cataloguing techniques, and institutional knowledge leaving with staff, she said.

Leaving a work untitled may also be a deliberate omission by the artist.

“Some artists actually call their works Untitled because they don’t necessarily want to give the viewer anything else but the work.”

Each artwork is being accompanied by a label which states which category the artwork falls into – and for some it is more than one.

Brown said she believed only one of the artworks on display had been seen since Anderson House closed.

Collection-based exhibitions were popular with the public, she said.

“Hopefully they’ll see a few old friends.”

There were also several artworks on display Brown had never had out before.

“We curated the show so the artworks included aren’t what people have come to expect. There are a couple of big names in there, but a lot of unknown artists as well.

“There’s a lot of quite historic works.”

Along with curating exhibitions, Brown said one of the gallery’s projects was a major digitisation project.

Assistant project registrar Loren Baxter had been transferring their collection records into new software, she said. This meant it was possible to search the collection using keywords such as “unknown”.

“Due to our collection not all being on-site, we have had to curate exhibitions previously by looking at each work’s record individually.

“This new software has given us a whole new way of seeing the collection because we can see the works with a shared commonality en masse now, which is quite cool.”

Baxter was also going through the gallery’s filing cabinets to try to find original documentation on how the works became part of the collection, Brown said.

“Cataloguing is never finished… you still keep finding stuff out, so you’re always adding to it.”

Brown said they also wanted to involve the community and were keen to hear from anyone who could help unlock some of the secrets of the works.

The exhibition will be on display until August 4.

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