University Clock Tower
This morning I headed for Albert Park, a pleasant oasis on a hill very close to the city centre. I didn't see Albert, but a statue of Queen Victoria stood at a prominent position in the park.
The park was buzzing with students, which was not a surprise since the sprawling campus of the University of Auckland butted onto it.
Conveniently located at one corner of the park was the Auckland Art Gallery. I needed a culture fix, so naturally I had to visit.
As expected, the gallery featured on changes with a strong representation from British and French Modernism, with works of radical art movements from Impressionism to Post-Impressionism, Pointillism, Fauvism, Cubism and Surrealism.
Over 300 years of New Zealand's unique cultural and visual history were explored. The country was seen through the eyes of early explorers, and notable figures of those early days were painted in miniscule detail by C F Goldie and Gottfried Lindauer.
There were plenty of examples of how art from non-Kiwi shores impacted upon the art scene in New Zealand.
Auckland Art Gallery
I had mixed views on some of the contemporary art. Two works really stimulated me. One was a large loop of tensed steel that could gently oscillate in a vertical plane. As it did so, it would strike a ball suspended above it, creating a beautiful sonorous resonance. The artist, Len Lye, had originally titled the work "Loop". After a child told him it sounded like the universe, he renamed it "Universe".
The other work was really an optical illusion inside a room into which entry was made via a sliding door. Inside, the walls were covered in a rhythmic pattern of rectilinear back and white shapes, and the floor and ceiling were nothing but mirrors. Once inside with the door closed, the powerful illusion created was of being suspended inside a lift shaft which stretched to infinity both above and below. Some of the other contemporary art frankly left me bewildered.
No Messing About Lifting Boats Out Here
The gallery also housed an exhibition: "Degas to Dali". This exhibition was on tour from the National Galleries of Scotland. A visual feast of 79 works were on display from one of the great British and European collections of historical, modern and contemporary Western Art.
From Monet to Miro, Renoir to Picasso, Magritte to Warhol and Degas to Dali, the legendary skill of 62 master artists who revolutionised our way of seeing was traced.
The development of modern art from the Realism of the late 1860s was followed, through Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Cubism, Vorticism, Expressionism, Dada, Surrealism and Pop Art.
Aptly, there was a corner devoted to Scottish Colourists such as James Cowie, George Hunter and S J Peploe. The bold palette of the Fauves, or "wild beasts", who got their name as a result of their riotous use of colour, found its way onto Scottish canvases.
Works by familiar British artists such as Stanley Spencer, Lucian Freud and L S Lowry were also on display.
I get totally absorbed in art galleries. In this instance, I emerged four hours later, having enjoyed a splendid collection of art. The side benefit of the visit was it acted as a powerful antidote to shopping.
As if by an invisible magnet, I was drawn back to the waterfront. Things here were on a big scale. I idly watched a catamaran being lifted out of the harbour by a crane, the size of which I would normally see on a large building site. Some large, classy yachts were slowly arriving in port, presumably for the Volvo Ocean Race festivities. I fell into a conversation with a Kiwi about these large yachts. "There was a yacht that passed through over a week ago, and it was worth $40M. All these big boats are worth millions each, and employ full time crews. Many of the boats are based in Georgetown in the Cayman Islands, there are business advantages and no mooring charges there," he told me. Hmmm.... so long as they don't charge for looking.
Strolling around the waterfront, I homed in on a convenient bar where I could watch the charter yachts returning. There I sipped a cool beer and caught up on my notes. I could get accustomed to this.