I had a lengthy debate with a prominent curator once about the similarities between public art galleries and sheltered workshops. From distant memory it went something along the lines of:
Galleries operate, by and large, beyond the realm of public opinion, producing occasionally irrelevant outcomes in an often unconventional and irrational manner, and are often misunderstood by their communities.
Sheltered workshops, on the other hand, operate beyond the realm of public opinion, producing occasionally irrelevant products in an often unconventional and irrational manner, and are often misunderstood by their communities.
I also recently discovered that the support programme for disabled people integrating in the community is Intellectual Disability Empowerment in Action (IDEA), galleries trade in the currency of ideas... You get the picture.
It's nice to see this idea taking off in a work in the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery's summer show Break: Towards a Public Realm.
Louise Menzies (b 1982, lives and works in Auckland) collaborates with Kate Newby (b 1979, lives and works in Auckland) to recreate in the front display space of the Govett-Brewster the front display space of the nearby Expressions IDEA daybase in the work Thinking/willing.
The switch isn't immediately obvious. With the way a lot of recent art borrows heavily from the burgeoning craft movement, you could be easily forgiven for thinking you were looking at 'leading contemporary art', which I guess is the point.
The lack of any signage or wall label doesn't exactly aid the digestion of the idea (though does the IDEA) and nor does the exhibition room brochure. I wonder if the current economic recession is behind the brochure's 5-point font and single-sided print.
Either that or the Gallery has something to hide...
Break: Towards a public realm. Govett-Brewster Art Gallery until 1 February 2009.