Inspiration

Q&A with Auckland Art Gallery’s Director Rhana Devenport

The Body Laid Bare: Masterpieces from Tate is the Auckland Art Gallery’s major exhibition for the year. Director Rhana Devenport tells us what makes it so special

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Q&A with Auckland Art Gallery’s Director Rhana Devenport 

A study of the nude in all its forms, this collection of artworks is at times provocative. Why do you think the body has been so treasured by artists and depicted in so many works?
This subject, the nude, connects with the core of our humanity – our vulnerability and strength. Art becomes a medium of truth and intimacy between the artist and the sitter and that moment of connection is further translated by and shared with audiences.

Tell us about your favourite piece (or pieces) in the show.
I am fascinated by the presence and power of women artists in every room of the exhibition, so the works of Gwen John, Vanessa Bell, Ithell Colquhoun, Louise Bourgeois and Marlene Dumas spanning a century of art-making are my personal favourites.

The exhibition is no small undertaking, with more than 100 artworks from Tate, London. How did the project come together?
We were approached by the Art Gallery of New South Wales to partner on this project some years ago. I immediately responded with enthusiasm and the Tate developed the exhibition quite swiftly from that point. They have both been brilliant partners.

How does The Body Laid Bare fit with the Auckland Art Gallery’s direction for the year?
We are thrilled with the inclusion of this exhibition which follows the exceptionally successful Gottfried Lindauer exhibition and precedes our next Chartwell Collection exhibition of contemporary art. The balance between international and New Zealand, and between historical and recent art is always foremost in our minds.

Painting: Philip Wilson Steer, Seated Nude: The Black Hat, c.1900, Oil paint on canvas, 508 x 406mm. Tate: Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1941. Photo Credit: Tate, London 2017.

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