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art & about with naomi mccleary

Having tried and failed to resist the urge to write yet again about Lopdell House and Te Uru, here is the good, the bad and the ugly of the weekend of the November 1 – 2. Firstly, I want to congratulate all the people who worked tirelessly to meet that deadline. I can only imagine how exhausted they must have been when the crowds rolled in. But as we entered Te Uru for the official opening and our first look at the interior, it was gasps of delight all round. Director Andrew Clifford had previously warned me that the galleries were a work of art in their own right, and he was not exaggerating. The spaces are large and light as they should be, but it is the eccentric and intriguing smaller rooms with glorious views towards the Manukau that are so surprising and lovely. Not to mention the asymmetrical, glass- boxed stairway up the south side of the building, the slightly vertigo- inducing air bridge to the open roof patio and the fabulous, coned ceiling of the top gallery.

Judge Takeshi Yasuda and Premier Portage Awards winner Louise Rive with her work, The Space Between. Photo: Haruhiko Sameshima.

The opening ceremonies (morning and evening) were the usual mixture of speeches and acknowledgements: worthy and necessary as a precursor to an exploration of the spaces. Attendance by many of the key movers and shakers in the arts world at the evening function was a clear demonstration of how keenly Te Uru will be watched as a leading regional gallery and institution. The opening exhibitions, including the main gallery tribute to Te Kawerau A Maki and their gift of the name Te Uru (the wind that blows from the west), were a lead up to the launch of the Portage Ceramic Awards on the following Thursday. But, for almost all the crowd, it was the building that was the star. Over the opening weekend more than 2,000 people came through the Lopdell Precinct and there is a real buzz around the village as locals get a grip on this new and exciting venture in their midst.

Probably the biggest ‘miss’ was the fact that the ground floor of Lopdell House is still empty. We know that a new eatery called Deco is in the wings – opening date to be confirmed. However, in a nice touch, the Deco team was there for the opening day serving coffee and food, and introducing themselves. The Portage Ceramic Awards is the perfect opening show and this year doesn’t disappoint. The opening night, which began on the roof, was initially a chilly affair and those who had graced the occasion with summery cocktail wear looked pretty desperate by the time the awards were announced – but hey, it was a brave attempt and the view was glorious. Once in the upper gallery the large crowd warmed – and warmed also to the exhibition which reflects just the right balance of challenging work and that which is just beautiful. The winning work is figurative but packs an emotional punch that takes it to another level. The exhibition of judge Takeshi Yasuda’s work shows the breathless art of what appears to be the careless gesture but is actually an artist at the height of his powers. A strong relationship is developing between Te Uru and the McCahon

House Museum and Residency programme. One of the opening exhibitions at Te Uru is recent artist-in-residence Amy Howden- Chapman’s They Say Ten Thousand Years. The McCahon House Museum is extending its summer hours from

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